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Early childhood educators do more than change your child's diaper

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Author: 
Arquillano, Esther
Publication Date: 
10 Apr 2019
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VANCOUVER—Amid talks of budgets and government spending, the cost of child care continues to be too high for many parents in British Columbia. Although the NDP’s Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative helps alleviate the financial pain for some parents, this plan leaves out early childhood educators (ECEs).

Early childhood educators providing child care are often the most neglected in financial negotiations and discussions surrounding child care. When ECEs do enter the conversation it’s often regarding wage cuts or backlash for attempts to increase their wage. The province has only recently invested in professional development training and increased the wages of some ECEs by $1-per-hour. These investments in ECEs are a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough.

How can we expect quality child care when ECEs are struggling to make ends meet? The lack of investments highlights a popular belief that ECEs are merely there to change an infant’s diaper or provide support for actual teaching professionals. It’s no wonder that ECEs feel “unappreciated” and must often justify themselves as more than “glorified babysitters.” We must convince the government and general public that ECEs are highly-skilled professionals worthy of respect and higher pay for the work they do.

ECEs working in child-care centres and preschools support the growth and development of children aged 0 to 5. ECEs are certified professionals with specialized and rigorous training in early childhood development. Like teachers, ECEs must have a post-secondary education and be registered and licensed, in B.C., to practice. However, grade school teachers are often given more respect than ECEs, even if they do similar jobs.

The lack of respect they receive as highly-qualified professionals suggests either the general public believes young children do not require developmental support from educators or that early childhood educators are thought of as unskilled and underqualified teachers. Regardless of the reason, the lack of respect must end. Are ECEs undervalued and underpaid? Yes. Should ECEs receive the same amount of respect as other teaching professions? Yes!

Here’s why:

During early childhood (age 0 to 8) children develop immensely, from their senses to their physical abilities to their understanding of emotions in social situations. An important aspect underlying these developments are cognitive skills. The famous psychologist Jean Piaget demonstrated that development of cognitive skills begins at birth and becomes more complex with age. In Piaget’s theory, cognitive development begins with physical action and matures to include the capacity for concepts, memory and reasoning.

The maturation of cognitive skills is evident between infants and toddlers. For example, hiding a toy so that the child doesn’t see it produces two distinct reactions. A toddler, but not an infant will go searching for the toy. Why? Because the toddler holds a mental concept and memory of what that toy looks like to go searching for it. An infant does not. Similar comparisons can be made for toddlers and young schoolchildren. A toddler’s ability to create mental images develops into the capacity to reason about complex ideas and situations in young children, which affects success in social situations and academic settings. ECEs help foster these developments.

As the foundation for future skills, developing cognitive skills and capacities is critical in the early years. Underdeveloped cognitive skills in the early years are associated with negative outcomes, such as lower academic achievement scores, the inability to get into kindergarten, and increased chances of mental health issues. Supporting cognitive development begins with the parents and continues to be supported outside the home by ECEs.

With their extensive training, ECEs provide supplemental support to areas where parents may be struggling. ECEs understand the importance of development and are equipped to support the child develop foundational cognitive skills and overcome potential adverse outcomes. Many programs delivered by ECEs specifically support cognitive development and aim to reduce the achievement gap for children transitioning from preschool to kindergarten. ECEs work hard to ensure young children enter formal education on the right foot.

Is child care expensive? Yes. Should ECEs receive more appreciation and better pay? Yes. Solutions to both are not mutually exclusive. BC’s $10-a-day child care plan provides one economic solution for parents. It’s time the government and public shift their focus to ECEs and acknowledge the hard work they do and are capable of by giving them the respect and pay they deserve.

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Entered Date: 
17 Apr 2019
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