Educating early childhood educators in Canada: a bridging program for immigrant and refugee childcare practitioners Dr. Anna Kirova, dr. Christine Massing, dr. Larry Prochner and dr. Ailie Cleghorn
Summary: Increasing diversity in cities in North America in general and Canada in particular requires recruitment and training of early childhood educators representing those groups, including immigrant and refugee women who see child care work as accessible to newcomers. In the context of Canada where multiculturalism has been an official federal policy since 1985, Early Childhood Teacher Education (ECTE) programs aim to prepare students to work with culturally diverse children and their families. Paradoxically, however, students in ECTE programs who come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are not recognized as possessing cultural competence because their skills and knowledges are marginalized in the dominant discourse. Data from a Bridging program specifically designed both to meet immigrant and refugee participants’ particular learning needs and to build on their strengths, are presented in order to demonstrate the main tensions between personal/cultural and professional knowledge the students experienced in the program as they encountered the dominant Early Childhood Education (ECE) discourses as part of their courses. The findings elucidate issues and strategies that are most likely to be effective for teacher education programs in multiethnic/multicultural contexts. The research contributes to the body of literature that aims at reconceptualising the existing framework for ECTE so that students from diverse cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds are seen as holders of knowledge alongside the theorists and experts in the field of ECE.