A research project involving a Western professor was recently infused with $2 million to support its focus on early childhood education.
The investment came from the British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development. The funding will be funnelled towards a new government-backed group of early childhood educators, featuring research from Western University and Capilano University, a university in Vancouver.
The schools' research has shed light on some issues in childcare — that a change is needed in the training of early childhood educators.
Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw is a professor of early childhood education at Western. Her research has revealed that early childhood educators are undervalued, underpaid and not well-recognized within society.
“We want to create a position where ECE is seen as an education project and not just a babysitting service,” she said.
The funds are helping launch the Early Childhood Pedagogy Network, which now houses some of Pacini-Ketchabaw's work. The funding will be allocated to the development of "pedagogists": a specialist that improves the training of early childhood educators. Pedagogists specialize in curriculums and work with educators to help them teach kids.
The ECPN plans to hire 30 pedagogists as a first step in its development, according to Pacini-Ketchabaw.
Although planning been in the works since 2010, she was involved before that. She began working with the B.C. children's ministry in 2005 when she was a professor at the University of Victoria.
“As I moved to Western I continued to develop the project and this was the next stage. The project moved with me,” she said.
Funding for the ECPN will extend over three years with a total investment of $136 million to help engage ECE workers in meeting the child care needs of families in B.C.
Going forward with the project means creating the vision of a pedagogist in partnership with the Early Childhood Educators of B.C.
In addition, the ECPN is partnering with the B.C. Aboriginal Child Care Society to adapt the role of a pedagogist to Indigenous communities.
“We are trying to propose to a North American audience that the discipline of pedagogy can do so much more for ECE,” explained Pacini-Ketchabaw.