Early childhood educators: â€˜Drivers of social change'
High-quality early childhood education and care has a transformative role: it provides learning experiences for children and parents that empower; and it aims to enhance outcomes not just for individuals and families but for communities and society. High-quality education and care thus has a role in addressing disadvantage, and enhancing social justice and equity. Those of us working in early childhood can choose to position ourselves as drivers of social change. We can be inspired by a vision of a fairer society where all children and their families are able to share high-quality experiences in their early years of life, and hopefully throughout their lives.
How we operationalise our vision depends on our own strengths and opportunities. In this edition of AJEC we offer a range of articles that help us understand the impact of oppression and inequity on the lives of children and give us ideas of what we can do to address these inequities. Boardman discusses how age and gender impact on learning achievements for young five- and six-year-old children in Tasmania. It is clear that younger children and boys in the year-cohort examined demonstrate lower educational outcomes, and a quality service provision must offer these children appropriate learning experiences to address this disadvantage. Gibbons discusses the role of early childhood services in preparing children for participating in a technological world. Ability to participate requires the support of skilled and knowledgeable early childhood personnel to ensure that all children, irrespective of their differential access to technology in their homes, are able to succeed.
Kennedy, Ridgway and Surman discuss different life chances to succeed in literacy and numeracy. They warn that one of the barriers to success for children is the lack of understanding between the home and the out-of-home environments, in terms of the learning opportunities children have experienced, and thus the knowledge and skills children bring into the formal learning context. Gillen and Hancock remind us that children are themselves social actors, and their perspectives and understandings, combined with those of others, create a bi-directional socialisation and learning process. In high-quality practice, adults and children jointly co-construct their world and learn together. In doing this we ensure that children's learning opportunities are appropriate for their needs and the contexts in which they are learning.
In addition to examining the impact of oppression and inequity on the lives of children, this edition of AJEC offers analyses of how we can prepare excellent practitioners who will have the skills and knowledge to work towards change. Stamopoulos offers insight into training to work with those whose needs are different. We know that attitudes are a powerful predictor of professionals' ability to offer high-quality service to all children, irrespective of diverse needs. This paper offers one way in which attitudes can be addressed within a preservice training program. Ortlipp identifies issues of inequity in preservice training itself, in relation to the assessment of performance in the practicum components. We need to ensure that our training processes themselves are equitable and fair if we are to expect graduates to offer equitable services to children and families.
Finally, Purcal and Fisher offer us an analysis of funding models in early childhood services. We cannot address issues of equity within services unless we ensure that all children and families have opportunities to access and participate in these services. High-quality services that support only a subset of children and families will not transform community outcomes. We need to ensure that our early childhood services are accessible to all and that all can participate, and funding is a crucial component of this.
I hope you enjoy this edition of AJEC and take out of it what you can to enhance your practice. Together we are all working towards transforming society, driving change through providing services in early childhood that reflect our vision of social justice and equity.
Edith Cowan University
AJEC Volume 31 No 4 December 2006, p. ii.