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Competent Systems in Early Childhood Development, Education and Care. Perspectives from Europe and Colombia

Thu, March 12, 4:45 to 6:15pm, Washington Hilton, Floor: Concourse Level, Cabinet


The paper discusses the need for ‘competent systems’ in early childhood development, care and education based on data from recent research on ‘Competence Requirements in Early Childhood Education and Care’(CORE) (Urban, Vandenbroeck et al, 2012) in Europe, and on findings from a recent collaborative research project that explored key questions of systemic early childhood workforce development in Colombia (Urban, 2013). The Colombian project explored competence profiles, qualification needs and systemic conditions for working with young children, their families and communities in five regions of Colombia.
Research was conducted in a collaboration between the University of Roehampton, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, the UN Observatorio sobre Infancia, Bogotá, and five collaborating Colombian Universities. It builds on and extends the approach taken by previous work of the author (Urban, Vandenbroeck et al, 2011, 2012; Urban, 2011, 2012, 2013).
The concept of ‘competent systems’ that underpins the multi-dimensional approach to understanding (i.e. researching and theorising) and developing professional practice in both the European and Colombian projects is grounded in a theoretical frame proposed by Urban and Dalli (2007, 2010, 2011) – the critical ecology. It draws on systems theory (Bateson, Luhman) and on a situated epistemology (ways of knowing and being) as exemplified by Paulo Freire’s concept of ‘Praxis’.
CORE Europe was a pan-European study involving a comprehensive literature review, a 15 country survey and seven cases studies. The multi-layer data analysis included a phenomenographical approach. The Colombian project employed documentary research (policy analysis) at national level and interviews with EC practitioners from a wide range of professional and paraprofessional backgrounds in five regions of Colombia (Tolima, Valle del Cauca, Meta, Magdalena, Amazonas). Both projects resulted in policy recommendations.
CORE Europe points out that processes of professionalisation of the early childhood workforce are interconnected and take place at all levels of the ECEC system. ‘Competence’ unfolds in the dimensions of knowledge, practices and values, and requires interactions and interrelations of all actors. The Colombian project supports these findings on a much broader base that extends beyond the immediate sphere of ECEC into ECD in the broadest sense.
Findings and recommendations emphasise the need to re-think professional preparation and continuous professional development, the importance of systemic conditions and to re-define the relationship between research, policy and practice.