For the blog entry this week, I have not heard from Sherry from Australia, but I have gotten information from Kierna from Northern Ireland.
Here are her answers to the questions below.
1. What issues regarding quality and early childhood professionals are being discussed
where you live and work?
“At present there is a big debate as to whether qualified teachers are needed
in nursery classes. This is all about finances as it is would obviously be much cheaper to just have assistants who would be paid much less than teachers but be expected to do the same job. There are some teachers in nursery who are early years specialists & it is very hard to ensure that anyone who is teaching this age group has some sort of specialized training. In some cases children as young as 3 are being taken to whole school assemblies, eating meals in the main school with the rest of the primary children or doing time-table P.E (games) rather than having a holistic outdoor play experience. Assistants are not as well trained as they used to be - it used to take 2 years full time study, now you can be qualified in 6 months & there is too much paper work & not enough hands on experience.
I live in N. Ireland, it is part of the UK but we have our own parliament & education minister & a different system than the other parts of the UK. I work in a nursery class attached to a primary school, the children at the school are aged from 3 to 11.”
2. What opportunities and/or requirements for professional development exist?
“At present any professional development undertaken has to be funded by the individual e.g. any further studies have to be done at night, part-time & paid for by yourself. 1 module of a masters costs around £400 & you need 9 to gain a masters! There are lots of privately run conferences & courses & some funding is available from the teaching council. Most nursery teachers network among themselves, sharing ideas & good practice. At present the internet provides the best opportunities for PD - my practice has been greatly enriched by blogging & swapping ideas with colleagues around the world.”
3. What are some of your professional goals?
“I want to provide the best outdoor learning experiences for the children in my class, I want to become known for my outdoor approach. I believe that it is my role to be an advocate for all the young children who come into my class. I want to ensure they have the best experience in their year in my class.
4.. What are some of your professional hopes, dreams, and challenges?
I would love to eventually open an outdoor kindergarten. The biggest challenge for nursery teachers is to make sure that they are valued and
recognized by not only their colleagues but all parents, politicians and the wider community.”
What I’ve learned is that many parts of the early childhood systems in other countries are very similar to ours. Early childhood professionals are struggling to be valued and recognized for their work. In most cases, we need to fund our own studies or professional development opportunities. There are also concerns about what is developmentally appropriate. Children around the world do not get to play as much and are forced into learning they aren’t ready for at younger and younger ages. We also have similar concerns with budgeting and paying quality teachers what they deserve.
Talking to Sherry and Kierna throughout this course has been informative. I’ve learned a lot about the early childhood systems in Australia and Northern Ireland. Thank you Sherry and Kierna for your help with these blog assignments.