The importance of the early period in the lives of children, that is, from the moment of birth to the time they enter school, has become more clearly recognized by society in recent years, and all countries of the world. What previously seemed to be a purely family affair and the care of the parents, has received a broader interpretation. It turned out thanks to research in various fields of science – from neurobiology to sociolinguistics, that fundamental opportunities are laid during this period that not only allow children to study the environment world, but also make them those social beings on whom the further development of our planet depends. The speed of a person’s formation in this period is many times greater than in all other stages of life, and those who care and educate the baby at this time, as well as what they invest in the child, determine all of his or her future fate [Rhian, 2020].
The development of these two most important areas – who are the actors and what is the content – has been taken up by the American National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which understands the inextricable link between well-educated, well-paid early childhood educators and the quality of the learning environment they create. For this purpose, the “Power to the Profession” (P2P) task force was formed in collaboration with thousands of educators, individual stakeholders and partner organizations, which over the past 2-3 years has been working to create a vision of a single preschool education profession with clear roles and responsibilities, training, and appropriate compensation. The goal of this initiative is to provide every child, from birth, with the opportunity to receive high-quality pre-school education [NAEYC, n.d.].
Most experts note significant shortcomings of a fragmented, isolated and insufficiently resourced system that does not support the effectiveness of early childhood educators, even in developed countries. There are, of course, good examples and achievements in certain regions and in the conditions of early training, where employees are equally well compensated and well prepared, and where significant measures have been taken to ensure quality. However, the reality for the vast majority of early childhood education workers or the early childhood education ecosystem is poor.
This National Task Force includes 15 national organizations that represent and interact with large groups of specialists in the field of early childhood, regularly meet to discuss and reach consensus on general recommendations for promoting the preschool education profession. The program is supported by such influential financial funds as the Alliance for Early Success, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, the Child Development Fund, the Richard W. Goldman Family Foundation, the W. Clement Foundation and Jesse W. Stone and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
High responsibility requires high professionalism. P2P believes that this primarily requires accredited, recognized, high-quality vocational training programs in the field of preschool education with special knowledge, skills, and competencies. One of the main recommendations made by the Profession Power Task Force was that NAEYC Training Standards should serve as the basis for the core knowledge and competencies of the profession, with some key changes. The revision of the standards is expected to be a comprehensive and collaborative process, ensuring the representation of experts in the field, as well as organizations whose competency documents will be reviewed. The revised standards have been renamed “Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Carers”. These standards will then be intended for the widespread use and official adoption. Access to these educational programs should be flexible in form, time, and place (including online), they should combine basic academic preparation and innovative and practical approaches. After creating a universal foundation, it is possible to advance specializations in narrower areas of corrective, multilingual, inclusive, creative and other types of education, caring for special children, working in development centers, large childcare centers, at home and in other places. If state agencies are responsible for educational programs, then professional organizations are responsible for specialization [NAEYC, (n.d.)]
After completion of training, each teacher and educator must obtain a license that will allow him/her to carry out professional activities. A license issued by the state allows a person to legally educate children at the preschool level and indicates that the applicant has the necessary knowledge and skills to fulfill the duties of an Early Childhood Educator with the designation ECE I, II or III, which is confirmed by the completion of the program training, passing internship and passing the test of competency assessment [Saskatchewan, n.d.].
At the same time, P2P indicates that educators can only be held responsible if they receive the necessary and sufficient support, resources and infrastructures. Unfortunately, many state educational bodies raise the expectations and requirements for teachers without sufficient attention or funding the necessary means of support and increase remuneration. Often this leads to the fact that talented young people cannot even enter this sphere, even if they have a desire and love for this profession, and those who are already in it decide to leave the field. Investing in education and rewarding those who work in the field of preschool education is the best strategy for ensuring the anti-crisis stable activity of this sector.
The main mission of Power to the Profession is that to receive significant and sustainable public investment that would allow all children to have a high-quality education in early childhood, preschool educators and stakeholders must agree on some clear, fundamental elements of the ecosystem to receive a diverse effective, fair and well-paid profession. In the context of deep social and economic transformations, many risks, and adverse effects on the health and development of children, governments should direct investments to:
— increasing compensation for early childhood caregivers;
— adequate funding of comprehensive scholarships and other support needed by potential and current preschool teachers to obtain and maintain the credentials and state licenses specified in the P2P recommendations;
— securing government funding for training programs that demonstrate compliance with candidate training in professional standards and competencies;
— support for training programs requiring accreditation or recognition;
— expanding access to broadband internet, especially in rural areas, for access to online and hybrid training courses;
— holding employers accountable for compensation for preschool teachers is commensurate with increased government funding; and
— creation and support of common service models for family-based child care providers and other small early childhood education institutions [Power to the Profession, 2020].
Also, states must commit themselves to interact with and respond to professional members and professional organizations (such as associations and unions). Strengthening the voice of the teacher will lead to the more active participation of stakeholders and better results for children and families.
NAEYC (n.d.) Power to the Profession Overview. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/initiatives/profession/overview. Accessed on 12.03.2020.
Power to the Profession (2020). Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/our-work/initiatives/power_to_the_profession_7-8_final_for_web.pdf. Accessed on 12.03.2020.
Rhian, Evans Allvin (2020) Why Aren’t We Paying Early Childhood Educators What They’re Worth?. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2020-02-14-why-aren-t-we-paying-early-childhood-educators-what-they-re-worth?utm. Accessed on 12.03.2020.
Saskatchewan (n.d.). Early Childhood Educator Certification. Retrieved from https://www.saskatch Early Childhood Educator Certification Retrieved from ewan.ca/government/education-and-child-care-facility-administration/become-an-early-childhood-educator. Accessed on 16.03.2020.
NAEYC (n.d.) Draft Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/position-statements/draft-professional-standards-competencies. Accessed on 16.03.2020.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Nadirova Gulnar Ermuratovna graduated from the Oriental Faculty of Leningrad State University, in 1990 she defended her thesis on the Algerian literature at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, in 2006 doctoral thesis - on modern Tunisian literature at the Tashkent Institute of Oriental Studies, Professor.