from Partners in Quality
From Volume 1, Issues
What is quality in child care?
That’s the question the Canadian Child
Care Federation’s Partners in Quality Project has been wrestling
with for the past two years. Why?
- because the first six years of life are
crucial for children’s development;
- because the parents of almost 800,000 children
under the age of six were working or studying full time in 1996,
and most of those children were in child care;
- because children’s well-being and development
suffer when they have poor quality care, and even an advantaged
family background can’t protect them.
But in our multicultural society, where so many
children are struggling with poverty, divorce and violence, and
families are increasingly diverse, isolated and stressed, what exactly
is quality child care?
What does the research say? What do the commentators
say? And just how do we get from the academic papersfrom “structural,
contextual and process elements”to the caregiver making play
dough in her kitchen in rural Alberta and the children she sees
Quality in child care certainly isn’t a new
subject, and this is by no means the Canadian Child Care Federation’s
first run at it. (Nor will it be the last!) But child care is coming
of age, and as it matures, it is becoming more thoughtful and analytical
about itself. There is a lot of disagreement about what quality
is, and we’ve talked far into the night to make sense of the issues.
What have we found? Something old, something
new, something borrowedand some new research to back up old
ideas. But this is the bottom line: as you probably suspected, the
front-line workers are what matters most when it comes to quality.
So hold on tight. Together we are about to embark
on a wild road trip in search of the meaning of quality child care
in Canada. This won’t be an easy rideit’s filled with potholes,
curves and dirt roads. But we hope it will inspire youto reflect,
to unpack your suitcases and linger, to revisit some of the sights
later, either alone or with your colleagues.
From Volume 2, Relationships
Teaching children about differences
Many child care practitioners grew
up learning that people’s similarities are more important than their
differences, that all people are the same inside, and that talking
about differences promotes prejudice.
As the child care field becomes more aware of
the dominance of mainstream North American culture, it is becoming
clear that emphasizing similarities contributes to prejudice: it
has made the white experience the norm and denied that anyone else’s
experience matters. This state of affairs does not promote the development
of a healthy self-concept in children of any culture.
It has also become clear that when practitioners
downplay differences, they miss out on wonderful opportunities to
help children learn more about one another’s lives, to tell the
story of their many cultural heritages, to confront discrimination
and stereotypes, to teach children to understand and interact comfortably