They visited the Early Childhood Education Teaching Facility at the University of Alberta. Watching the dynamics of teaching and learning at a centre right on the university grounds was an absorbing experience, and they imagined transforming one or two of our classrooms at Tukkies into an early care centre where good practice could be imparted to their student teachers.
They also shared experiences from South Africa with staff and senior students at Alberta University regarding the new policy on the minimum requirements for the teacher programme presented by the Department of Elementary Education. PhD as well as Master’s students attended our talks and they were intrigued to hear that South Africa has finally become serious about investing in Early Years Education.
The rest of the week consisted of tours of the Child Study Centre at the University of Alberta, the Zoo School and the multicultural school in Edmonton. We also visited the Edmonton pre-schools or kindergartens, as well as the St Clare Catholic School and the MacEwan University Early Learning and Child Care Lab School.
Canada is among the countries in which early childhood educators working with children below kindergarten age, are not required to be certified teachers. The education qualification of educators working in non-school settings, generally child care — vary from one-year certificates to two-year diplomas. Their policy framework, similar to ours, ascribes various roles to educators, including those of observer, documenter, listener, researcher, and creator of a stimulating environment, co-constructor of knowledge, negotiator, and supporter of children’s participation in decision-making, supporter of social relationships, as well as partnering with families and supporting diversity.
Our visit strengthened the collaboration between the two universities and also highlighted the challenges in identifying the important tensions between the dominant early childhood education discourse and immigrant/refugee cultural knowledge systems and child-rearing practices they bring to Early Childhood Teacher Education.