Equity Begins In Early Childhood
Updated: Jun 4
There’s a lot to ponder about at the moment, 3 June 2020. It’s the year of the virus and in addition to that, the abject injustice that is being represented in the USA, is on the mouths of a good number of humans around the planet. Using the word ‘human’ is intentional. Basic humanity is required.
Like you, perhaps, I wondered what I could do about this. However, following an online meeting yesterday I was encouraged to be a voice, thanks to a blonde lady in her 70’s, who said that she’s not waiting for a Nelson Mandela to rise up at this time. She has decided to be a voice in her community, to be a leader and to stand courageously for what is deemed to be right.
So here I am, inspired and advocating for equity within early childhood education.
What is Equity?
In this context, ‘equity’ means that:
“… all children and families get the support they need to develop to their full intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic, and physical potential”.
Equity is not equality. Rather, with equity, each individual is considered from wherever he or she starts and once this is done, resources are distributed equitably rather that equally. It’s similar to having high levels of differentiation within the classroom, but on a wider basis; taking the time to understand the background of the children before starting the process of teaching and learning.
It is not an unknown phenomenon. There has been documented research for decades regarding the inequitable practices within early childhood education.
Here are a few foundational aspects linked to Advancing Equity In Early Childhood Education (2018), a position statement by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (‘NAEYC’), based in the USA:
All children have the right to equitable learning opportunities that help them achieve their full potential
All early childhood educators have a professional obligation to advance equity
Early childhood educators need support to fulfil their mission
There are an untold number of actions that can and should be taken to achieve equity within the early years sector. My short post will only highlight what equity represents within ECE. However, I hope it will be seen as a catalyst to start the conversation. I simply write as a researcher and have no allegiance to anything mildly political.
In addition to race, equity in early childhood education (‘ECE’) incorporates access to education in the context of culture, language, gender, ability and disability, religious beliefs and economic class. It has long been established that our work as educators within the field plays a pivotal role when it comes to the development of young learners.
What Can You Do As An Educator?
As educators, our influence should aim to:
Create a caring, equitable community of engaged learners
Establish two-way, reciprocal, relationships that respect each family’s expertise
Allow for settings that enable all children to build sustainable foundational knowledge, vocabulary and a strong, developmentally appropriate, skill set
Use a range of teaching practices and teaching styles that provide all children with the learning support that they require
Observe, assess, document each child’s development and progress, while acknowledging the potential for implicit bias, based on individual, life experiences
Advocate on behalf of young children, families and, where possible, the early childhood profession
These pointers have been taken from research published by the NAEYC in ‘Each and Every Child; Teaching Preschool with an Equity Lens, edited by Susan Friedman and Alissa Mwenelupembe(2020). If they ever read my blog post, I say - ‘THANK YOU!’
My thanks is based on the fact that they have responsibly compiled and documented research on a topic that I have not been fully aware of, as I live in a country that has a high level of tolerance for each of the 195+ nationalities that live in it.
For full details regarding the topic of equity within ECE, I recommend reading this book, or at least looking through the highlights if you aren’t an avid reader. Here’s an overview of the contents:
Part 1 - Nurturing Your Own Empathy and Understanding `Behavior
Part 2 - Creating an Equitable Classroom
Part 3 - Developing a Strengths-Based Approach When Teaching Black Boys
Part 4 - Supporting emergent Bilingual Children
Part 5 - Engaging Diverse Families
Part 6 - Exploring Identity
I keep hoping that one of the outcomes of the post quarantine era will be a full recognition of the value that early childhood education and care brings to society. The first few years of every child’s life are so very important and in so many ways determine who she/he will be in the future. It’s a time in which we as educators and parents can set in place a holistic approach to learning. Preschool is not only about learning to read and write and build age appropriate maths skills. The social, emotional, psychological, spiritual, development of those young minds are often rooted in what happens in the early years.
To purchase the book please click here - 'Each & Every Child' have a look on the NAEYC site. No affiliate links involved.
Thanks for taking the time to read through!
Patricia Mezu is a lawyer, Montessori advocate and coactive coach (in training).