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Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood Practice


Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood Practice Dalvir Gill CREC Centre for Research in Early Childhood Diverse aspects of diversity Why respect for diversity matters ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood Practice

Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood Practice
  • Dalvir Gill
  • CREC
  • Centre for Research in Early Childhood

Diverse aspects of diversity
  • Why respect for diversity matters
  • Multiple belongings
  • Multiculturalism to Cultural Negotiation
  • Adults and Children engaging in Inclusive and
    Open Dialogues

Why respect for diversity matters
  • Education an emerging political theme
  • Social cohesion
  • Early Childhood Education matters, (OECD) but not
    all early education matters in the same way
  • Quality matters
  • Respect for diversity matters

  • To help close the gap in the achievement of
    all children and families
  • To identify and explore the diversity of the
    most excluded populations and how to tune
    into their needs more effectively
  • To examine values and practice and to enhance
    understandings of diversity and equality issues
    in society in order to address inequalities
  • To critically reflect on a wide range of
  • To increase the skills and confidence of
    practitioners, providers, parents and children to
    engage in open and equitable dialogues

  • For economy
  • For education (learning is linked to wellbeing
    and sense of belonging)
  • For social justice
  • Therefore, respect for diversity is not an
    additional quality criterion, it is quality.
  • But what is respect for diversity ?

Multiple belongings
  • Is it OK to be who I am?
  • What is my place in this society?
  • Fostering multiple belongings and taking in
    multiple forms of diversity
  • Not making the other into the same (we all
    different but all equal)
  • That is not othering the other (essentialism)
  • Fostering interdependency as well as autonomy

  • Govment, policymakers and service providers are
    seeking to give emphasis and priority to
    respecting cultural diversity and valuing the
    multiple identities of children, families and
  • Differences enrich our society and make it an
    exciting and challenging place to be.

  • Identity is a key concept within education and
    how to deal with diversity.
  • Proceeded by an adjective, national cultural
    or ethnic.
  • Also used in political framework
  • Used and misused as an argument for integration
    as well as for differentiation.

  • We simply cant afford not to invest in respect
    for diversity and social inclusion
  • It is a matter of quality
  • It is crucial, difficult and feasible
  • It includes both culturalising curricula and
    deculturalisating structural exclusion

Children Crossing Borders Study
  • Recently, there have been efforts in many
    countries to plan better services for serving
    children of immigrants.
  • But the voices of immigrant parents have too
    rarely been included in this planning.
  • (And this is even more true for the voices of
    immigrant children.)

  • To improve services for children of recent
    immigrants in early childhood education and care
    (ECEC) settings by including the voices of
    immigrant parents and children.
  • To compare parents, practitioners, and
    childrens beliefs about ECEC.
  • To influence policy and practice towards
    immigrant families and their children.
  • To model for parents and staff a process of
    engaging in dialogue about what should happen in
    ECEC settings.

  • We produced a series of five 20-minute videotapes
    showing typical days in ECEC centres that serve a
    significant number of children of recent
    im/migrants in England, France, Germany, Italy,
    and the USA.
  • Used these videotapes to stimulate focus-group
    discussions with practitioners and parents (both
    immigrant and non-immigrant) at ECEC centres in
    multiple locations and contexts in each country.

  • Content analysis
  • Interpretive analysis
  • Answerability (Mikhail Bakhtin). interpreting
    (for their can be no meaning-making without
    interpreting) and
  • Replying (not just to the people we interview but
    to the wider world)

Bakhtin Analysis
  • Bakhtin emphasizes that utterances reflect the
    speaker, the listener, and the context of the
    interaction, both the immediate context (what the
    speaker and listener see and our experiencing)
    and the larger contextevents that have recently
    occurred. And the shared world of intertextual
    associations, speech conventions, etc.

  • Using the content analysis of these focus-groups
    we identified key areas of similarities and
    difference between immigrant parents and the
    teachers who care for their children.
  • Our analysis also compared views of immigrant and
    non-immigrant parents and of immigrant parents
    and of practitioners living in five countries.

  • Our research to date points to the need for
    parents and the staff of ECEC programmes to
    engage in a more equitable dialogue about the
    means and ends of early childhood education and
  • It also suggests that for various reasons this
    dialogue rarely happens without intervention and

  • Some of these reasons are straightforward
  • parents and practitioners often do not speak a
    common language
  • Some parents work long hours that make it
    difficult for them to spend much time in their
    childrens preschools beyond pick up and drop
  • Other reasons are more subtle
  • parents may perceive the preschool staff of
    holding prejudices (and in some cases they are
  • Practitioners may perceive parents as not liking
    them and of disapproving of much of what they do
    (and in some cases they are right).

Can the Subaltern speak?
  • Problem of communication between ECEC staff and
    parents is more than just a problem of dialogue
    across cultural and class divides.
  • Also a problem of dialogue across power
  • Gayatri Spivak poses as the question, Can the
    subaltern speak? and when they do, can their
    voices be heard?

  • When parents (especially immigrant parents) and
    the staff who teach and care for their children
    attempt to engage in dialogue, many barriers that
    need to be overcome.
  • Needed is the creation of mechanisms that will
    allow this dialogue to take place and, when it
    does take place, to address the power asymmetries
    and other obstacles that can block understanding
    and connection on both sides.

Key issues from focus groups
  • Low parental engagement
  • Lack of parent engagement too often is posed as a
    problem that implicitly blames parents for not
    taking sufficient interest in their childrens
  • Parents focus groups suggests just the opposite
  • Many parents, including and perhaps especially
    parents who have recently immigrated from another
    country, have a lot to say about early childhood
    education and care, a keen interest in what goes
    on in their childrens preschools and a deep-felt
    desire to be more involved in the school.

  • Biggest obstacle - they dont know how to be more
  • ECECs programs to not know how to make themselves
    open to parents, especially immigrant parent
  • Parent involvement generally focusing on the
    school giving information to parents rather than
    on a more reciprocal, symmetrical dialogic

  • Parent involvement in ECEC is not just about
    practitioners getting better at explaining
    themselves to parents and giving more support and
    help to parents it is also about practitioners
    getting better at listening to parents.
  • Listening to parents doesnt mean doing whatever
    they say rather, it requires a willingness and
    ability to enter into dialogue and negotiation
    with parents.
  • This is especially true when the parents and
    practitioners come from different class,
    linguistic, and cultural backgrounds.

  • Cultural responsiveness doesnt mean being
    responsive only on issues that are easy for us to
    respond to, such as food, clothes, and holiday
  • It is around issues of knowledge, gender,
    pedagogy, and the body where cultural differences
    become more threatening and as a result people
    draw firmer lines.

  • Our project highlights the value of parent
    participation in ECEC programmes and points to
    the need for better communication between
    practitioners and parents who do not share a
    common cultural background or language.

Cultural Negotiation From Research to
Implications for Practice and Policy
  • Study highlights more explicit attention to the
    need not just for more parent education and
    parent participation but also an open exchange of
    information between practitioners and parents as
    well as for a process of cultural negotiation,
  • A dialogue that includes discussion about the
    problems and possibilities of creating ECEC
    programmes that reflect the values and beliefs of
    both immigrant communities and of the societies
    to which they have immigrated.

  • It is wrong to assume or expect that if and when
    practitioners and parents from different cultural
    and class backgrounds come together to talk, that
    they will easily find common ground.
  • The more parents and practitioners listen to each
    other, the better they may come to understand the
    depth of their differences as well as their

  • Our research and research by others suggests that
    practitioners and immigrant parents often hold
    different and sometimes contradictory beliefs
    about what should happen for young children in
    ECEC settings.
  • Whats needed, then, is not just better
    communication between practitioners and parents
    but also a willingness and ability on both sides
    to engage in a process of negotiation across
    cultural and class divides.

  • We use the word negotiation because it carries
    a sense of politics and power that is not
    explicitly present in the term dialogue or
  • If practitioners and parents engage in
    negotiation, both have to be prepared to put
    their beliefs and preferences on the table and to

  • When we are serious about listening to parents
    and perhaps, we will hear them expressing ideas
    about what should happen in ECEC settings that
    differ from our professional, progressive notions
    of best practice and quality.
  • This is not suggesting that ECEC providers should
    drop their beliefs and values and do whatever
    parents ask.
  • We are proposing that early childhood educators
    should enter into discussion and debate with the
    willingness to negotiate even their most closely
    held beliefs.

  • It is important to acknowledge and address the
    asymmetrical power relationships between
    practitioners and parents.
  • This asymmetry cannot always be overturned, but
    it can be acknowledged and addressed.
  • The research is a kind of needs assessment that
    points to areas of tension between all parents
    and the staff of the ECEC programmes their
    children attend.
  • Key areas of disagreement and tension that have
    arisen in the parent and teacher focus groups we
    have conducted include

  • beliefs about the balance of academics and play
    in the ECEC curriculum
  • approaches to home language maintenance and
    second language learning
  • beliefs about how ECEC programmes should approach
    questions of religion, culture, multiple
    identities, racism and citizenship.

  • The focus-group discussions conducted with
    parents also challenge some stereotypes that
    educators sometimes hold about particular groups
    and communities.
  • Stereotypes including the notion that some
    parents are not interested in having an active
    role in their childrens ECEC programmes
  • That they have unsophisticated ideas about
    childrearing and early childhood education

Possibilities Freires cultural circles
  • Inspired by Freires dialogic and reflexive
    action in a pedagogy of the oppressed
  • Working with those who are domesticated or
    silenced with the clear aim of liberation
  • First step is consciousness raising and the
    development of selfhood in the oppressed with the
    intention of helping them to name their world and
    begin to shape it, i.e empowerment approach
  • Co-construction of generative themes which are
    meaningful to participants which emerge through
  • This work is supported through cultural circles
    in which symmetrical and reflexive dialogues
    occur between oppressors and oppressed
  • Dialogues are developed through the introduction
    of cultural artefacts which generate emergent
    themes from which further action can flow.

Opening Window
  • I do not want my house to be walled in on all
    sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the
    cultures of all the lands to be blown about my
    house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be
    blown off my feet by any.

  • Gandhi