Can higher education help the growth of early education?


When Texas cleared the way for community colleges to offer bachelor’s degree programs in fields where workers are in high demand, the leaders of Dallas College seized this opportunity. They considered three career directions—nursing, IT, and early childhood education—and decided to start with the latter.

One reason is that North Texas needs thousands of people to be trained to provide services for children from birth to third grade. The other is to promote teachers who prepare future teachers specifically for those young learners, rather than for elementary schools more broadly.

Robert DeHaas, associate dean of the Dallas Institute of Education, said: “From a pedagogical point of view, we know that teaching four-, five-, or six-year-olds is different from teaching fifth and sixth grades. “University.

The third motivation is to design a plan around the needs of current and aspiring preschool teachers and caregivers, who sometimes find that colleges cannot go to college because of the cost or the challenges of arranging courses around work. As a result, the institution can afford its bachelor’s degree, which charges $79 per credit, which includes the cost of textbooks.

So far, interest has been high. More than 3000 people applied for the first batch. The vast majority of enrollment are first-generation college students and people of color.

“We know how important it is to cultivate the next generation of educators who truly reflect the educators and the communities they serve,” De Haas said.

This is an example of a strategy used by some universities to help train more people to provide high-quality early childhood education. A new report from the National Association for Early Childhood Education explores how to make the education and care of infants, toddlers, and children under 8 years of age a larger priority for universities and colleges, and assess the obstacles to achieving this goal.

The report is based on interviews with nearly 30 higher education leaders, indicating that it is time for universities to support early education. At the national level, there is an incentive to invest more public funds in childcare and preschool, and the local communities where many universities are located need more workers. There is a lot of scientific research on the life-long benefits of high-quality early education, which can be extended beyond individuals and families to help reduce the racial equality gap in society, which is a goal that more higher education institutions are accepting.

Report author and CEO Rhian Evans Allvin said: “If we get a high-quality early education right, it will push our agenda around inclusiveness and equity, graduating from high school and entering higher education institutions and entering the high-paying workforce.” National Early Childhood Education Association.

The report made several recommendations on what universities can take to train more early educators to meet high standards. One is to make it easier for people to obtain a bachelor’s degree in this field in terms of logistics. Either offer these degree programs in community colleges like Dallas College, or pave the way for students to switch from an associate degree program at a community college to a bachelor degree program—— Degree-granting institutions. The other is to provide childcare services on campus, as well as other all-round support, so that parents of students are more likely to learn. The third is to require teachers to prepare for the professional certification of the program to raise expectations for the quality of workers-this is provided by the National Early Childhood Education Association.

“Now in most states, the bottom line of expectations is: high school diploma, fingerprints, and no tuberculosis,” Evans Olwin said.

However, several obstacles hindered these recommendations. Some people are new to the pandemic. In May 2021, a survey conducted by the National Early Childhood Education Association of 600 teachers from 400 higher education institutions found that in the early childhood education projects during the crisis:

  • Nearly two-thirds of enrollment has fallen
  • More than one-third of people have a drop in graduation rate
  • 30% experienced budget cuts
  • 2% off

Other obstacles exist for a long time. According to the report, wages in the infant industry are very low. The national average is only a little over $11 per hour, and with the increase in the bachelor’s degree, wages have not increased too much. The average wage for workers with a bachelor’s degree in enlightenment is $14.80. This does not provide much financial incentives for people to complete advanced degrees.

It also prompts university leaders to carefully consider encouraging students to pursue a career in teaching young children. De Haas said the leaders of Dallas College “recognized the need to provide a certificate that can sustain a living wage”-which in Texas means a bachelor’s degree.

“We are not ashamed to point this out,” he added. “How will we issue ourselves a certificate like the CDA? [Child Development Associate] Will that lead to a job that earns the minimum wage? In higher education, we face challenges beyond these. This is not to minimize these credentials, but to force us to think more strategically. ”

Another obstacle for workers and institutions to invest in early childhood education is the fact that degrees are not always mandatory to work in the industry. Teaching in K-12 public schools requires a bachelor’s degree, so teachers from kindergarten to third grade must have a bachelor’s degree. But in the years before kindergarten, this was not the case. According to the new report, in child care centers, about half of educators have a college degree and one third have a bachelor’s degree. These figures have declined among licensed household suppliers; 31% of them have a college degree and 17% have a bachelor’s degree.

However, some cities and states are increasing certification requirements, which has caused some universities in these places to redesign the courses they offer and recruit preschool teachers to register.

The community college is where Evans Allvin sees the most innovation. However, since few students actually earn an associate degree within the recommended two years, many of these institutions are fighting what De Haas calls the “two-line war”, that is, while preparing students for their careers, We must also fight the trend of low university graduation rates.

“I think higher education really has to think deeply about how to get traditional early childhood educators from A to B. It doesn’t have to be linear,” De Haas said. “My students can’t get a bachelor’s degree in eight years.”

Most of the reasons that hinder early childhood education in universities boil down to money: low wages for workers, insufficient research funding, and high tuition fees for students. Evans Allvin hopes that federal investment proposals in the industry will make it a greater priority for higher education.

“To achieve the ideal goal that we all support, there must be policy and financial support,” she said. “This is an opportunity to disrupt the many inequalities that have plagued our field for decades.”

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