Early Childhood Education milestone within reach

By: Gerry Rucchin
November 13, 2018

The Provincial Centre of Excellence for Early Years and Child Care is about to hit a significant milestone. It’s preparing to send its first pedagogists into the early childhood education community across Ontario.

For the last 16 weeks, 18 people from 47 partner agencies have been training to become ‘pedagogists’ and work with early childhood educators, children and families at a pedagogical level.

The pedagogists will lead a pedagogical project with early childhood educators and connect these everyday projects with the social and cultural landscapes that are found within communities. The goal of the pedagogical projects will also engage with local social justice and truth and reconciliation initiatives.

“The goal is to rethink early childhood education in Ontario,” said co-director of the Provincial Centre of Excellence for Early Years and Child Care, Professor Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw.

Since the Centre has funding until March 2020, co-director Professor Rachel Heydon added, it’s essential to build a sustainable pedagogist network for long-term success.

“We’re identifying educators whose professional responsibilities already include professional learning so that we can build on this work to create a cohesive early childhood education system in the province,” said Heydon.

Early Years – Most work behind the scenes 

Immediately after the Centre was established, Pacini-Ketchabaw and Heydon began hiring staff and started developing relationships by bringing community partners in Ontario together. They also worked on understanding the early childhood education landscape in Ontario.

Collecting data has also been important. Heydon said they’ve been determining how many people work in early childhood education, where they work and they’ve identified regional coordinators. This data allows them to build a pedagogist network across the province.

Another challenge for the Centre is the complexity of the early childhood education system in Ontario. At municipal levels, the professional learning of educators is supported by 47 distinct Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Services Administration Boards, and there are over 50,000 people who work in the field.

“The province is so large,” said Pedagogical Communications Coordinator for the Provincial Centre of Excellence for Early Years and Child Care, Tammy Johnson. “There are so many moving parts but we need to move at a pace that reaches the entire province.”

“The scale is immense,” added Heydon. “The timelines are daunting but slow and steady wins the race and I’m amazed at what we’ve accomplished so far.”

Western Education leading Provincial Centre of Excellence

In March, the Ministry of Education selected the Faculty of Education to lead the Provincial Centre of Excellence for Early Years and Child Care along with the Ontario Reggio Association. 

The Centre’s goals include:

  • Improving and sustaining the quality of early years programs
  • Supporting a dynamic and holistic early years sector with long-term investment in continuous innovative and cutting-edge professional learning
  • Nurturing a commitment to truth and reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities within the entire early years sector
  • Promoting a view of children as citizens of today with rights and responsibilities
  • Promoting strong and culturally-relevant local communities of practice among early years programs

The Centre has scheduled a second pedagogist cohort to begin training in the new year and a third cohort is scheduled to start in April or May.