It’s not about the COBWEB in the corner of the room! What every government needs to know about quality ECEC!
#investEYEnow If you received €16 for every €1 you invested would you invest? “Economists assert that on the basis of available evidence, investment in quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is the most powerful investment a country can make” (Moloney 2011: 4). We hear about quality ECEC all the time. It is a buzzword used in many textbooks, policy documents and by many practitioners but do we understand what quality means?
If governments and policy makers knew what a quality ECEC setting consisted of, they would surely invest millions in supporting the educator. Since the educator, is the one that provides enriching experiences to children. Surely, they would increase the pay of early years educators and value our complex role. Surely, they would decrease the cost of early years education so every child could receive quality ECEC. In theory quality ECEC has many components.
In Ireland, educators with degrees are being paid just over the minimum wage but are expected to provide quality learning experiences. Is this acceptable? Is this fair? Is this sustainable?
Here are four components of a quality setting based on research and best practice guidelines (Siolta, 2006, Aistear, 2009; Whitebook, 2015; Moloney, 2011). However, if these components are to be implemented in ECEC, then educators and parents must be supported and affordable and accessible ECEC must be invested in. Here are a few components of a quality ECEC setting. You can also learn more about how we support preschool providers in encouraging quality practice and reducing burnout in their settings at teachkloud.com!
1. Quality ECEC is dependent on the quality of the staff
Some agree that all practitioners should have a degree, to effectively educate and care for young children. They argue that, a practitioner cannot be effective if they are not educated in child development theory or curriculum planning. However, some say that, ECEC is more about caring for the child and their needs and so does not need much training.
Whatever your stance, as practitioners we know all too well, the complexity of our work and that every child is unique. This definitely requires staff who are well-trained and love the work that they do. The OECD (2012) shows how staff who avail of continued professional development can aid children in their development. Staff must be compensated and their work must be recognised if quality staff are to be retained.
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2. Process and structural components of quality ECEC
There is a general consensus that quality ECEC must incorporate both structural (regulations) and process elements (interactions with children) of ECEC. However, its not so much about the ‘cobweb in the corner of the room’ but more so about the adult/child relationships, the curriculum, as well as the type of resources and materials used in the learning environment.
Structural components include the safety of the environment and things such as room temperature. Although they are both important, process elements, such as adult/child interactions and the development of the child are what inspectors and quality ECEC should focus on.
3. Family involvement
An ECEC setting which involves the child’s family and works in partnership with the parent to meet the needs of the child, is definitely a key components of quality in ECEC. We often hear how the parent is the expert on their child, in many situations, they really are! This is why the ECEC practitioner should aim to understand the child’s and parents culture, views and even their problems.
For example, in a study of 5,000 parents over 2,500 cited work commitments as a barrier to getting involved in their child’s education (Peters et al., 2008). If the practitioner understands the challenges to family involvement, they can take practical steps to reduce these, thereby increasing family involvement. Such as having parent-teacher meetings at a suitable time or meeting parents at a time which suits them. Just remember, collaboration is key to success! We support providers increasing family involvement and child-centred practices here.
Having a well-planned and thoughtful curriculum, that encourages the inclusion of all children is paramount in providing quality ECEC. Well thought out lesson opportunities will help children develop holistically. It may aid them in becoming confident and capable learners.
Bearing in mind the major components which make a quality setting, it makes sense that the educator should be supported and resourced in their role. The cost of investment is nothing compared to the economic and societal benefits, that comes with well-educated and adjusted children.
TeachKloud encourages policy makers and governments today to #investEYEnow!
Find out how we support early childhood services here