“Conversations that Matter”: Child and Youth Study Students’ Perspectives on the Professional Status of Early Childhood Education

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Kennedy, Melissa
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Mount Saint Vincent University
The focus of this research was to gain an understanding of how students enrolled in Mount Saint Vincent University’s Bachelor of Arts (Child and Youth Study) program perceive the professional status of Early Childhood Education, and the impact the professional status of ECE may have on future career choices. Qualitative data was gathered using the World Café dialogue method. Data was collected from nineteen participants through audio-recordings, participant-written notes, and notes recorded by a note-taker. Thematic analysis, as described by Attride-Stirling (2001) and Braun and Clarke (2006), was used to identify themes in the data. Two global themes were identified: value placed on the knowledge and role of the early childhood educator, and early childhood education as a career option. The results of this study indicate that students in the Child and Youth Study program perceive Early Childhood Education to be a low-status occupation. Participants expressed concerns over the lack of professional compensation, the absence of a standard of credentialing, public disregard for the knowledge of ECEs, and the public perception of ECE as “babysitting” rather than education. Of the nineteen participants in this study none intended to work as an early childhood educator upon completion of the Child and Youth Study program, either in a childcare centre or in the newly-established pre-primary program. Based on the findings of this study, recommendations for policy makers are: develop a recruitment strategy for the field of Early Childhood Education, provide professional compensation for ECEs, ensure all individuals who hold the title of Early Childhood Educator hold either a diploma in Early Childhood Education or a degree in Child and Youth Study, and develop a public-awareness campaign on the value of early childhood education.
Early childhood education, professional status perspective,