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Crossing cultural interface between early childhood education and Child-Care services

Hesterman, S.ORCID: 0000-0001-7491-5527 (2011) Crossing cultural interface between early childhood education and Child-Care services. In: 21st European Conference on the Quality of Early Childhood Education: Education from birth: Research, practices and educational policy, 14 - 17 September 2011, Lausanne, Geneva, Switzerland


In 2008, the Australian Labor government embarked on an ‘education revolution’ to secure the nation’s long term economic prosperity. A new education system was mandated to raise performance standards and quality of outcomes from early childhood to university, while also extending services to include chil¬dren from birth. Thereafter, the words ‘and care’ were increasingly attached to the term early childhood education. Historically, early childhood education and child-care have been provided to Australian chil¬dren through two very distinct systems. An integrated profession, Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is now implied.

The case for ECEC reform is founded on research evidence that “supporting children in the years before school greatly increases their chances of a successful transition to school and achieving better learn¬ing outcomes and social and emotional wellbeing” (Western Australian Department of Education, 2010, p.2) To achieve high quality and consistent standards in the area of early years education, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) developed and circulated its inaugural Early Years Learning Frame¬work (2009) to all ECEC settings. The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) is intended to be imple¬mented by ‘qualified’ early childhood ‘educators’.

For those at the coalface of ECEC change there is a tangle of loose policy ends that require consider¬ation if effective EYLF implementation across the 0-5-year-old cohort is to be realised. There is growing debate on what constitutes an essential early childhood ‘professional’ knowledge base and the definition of an early childhood ‘educator’ has become complex. There is negligible sharing of socio-educational expertise between those who work in the child-care system and those who teach in the field of early childhood education. Perhaps the most significant challenge confronting those ‘educating’ early child¬hood ‘educators’ is how best to cross the cultural interface between early childhood education and child-care services to facilitate increased and beneficial interactions? How can partnerships aimed at mutual exchange of knowledge, understandings, and skills between early childhood education and care profes¬sionals be supported by universities?

This paper examines the cultural experiences of an early childhood university lecturer/researcher who worked in a Western Australian long day child-care centre to complete a Diploma of Children’s Services child-care qualification. The researcher’s aims were two-fold; to become acquainted with the lived expe¬rience of child-care educators to better facilitate their transition into university pre-service early childhood education, and to integrate new knowledge and understanding derived from the child-care experience into existing university early childhood education courses.

The single case study, constructed over a four month period and employing ethnographic methodology, investigated how, one year after the EYLF dissemination, educators in a long day child-care centre are trained to provide for the educational and care needs of children aged 0-3 years. The case study, located in the post-modern moment, identifies the multiple realities in early childhood education and care set¬tings that shape the educator’s role, norms and expectations and will impact on EYLF implementation. The case study also illuminates issues requiring immediate government attention if those working in ECEC are to build a unified early years profession.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
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