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Viewpoints: A Perspective from Vivian Vasquez, Program Director for Early Childhood Education

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Students study at a table

Existing research, historical data and advances in neuroscience have contributed to an understanding that young children who have access to quality early childhood experiences and education do better in life. On the early learning home page of the US Department of Education, it is noted that each year approximately four million children enter kindergarten in the United States and many others engage in various other learning opportunities and early childhood experiences. There have been some positive initiatives put forth by the US government including investment in universal early education and pre-school education. Unfortunately, there continues to be inequitable access to such programs. An important question to be asked is, how can we disrupt existing inequities and promote inclusive education for all children? It is against this backdrop that we carry out our work in the early childhood education program at the AU School of Education.

As a faculty member in the early childhood education program, I see my role as creating spaces for my students to develop a theoretical toolkit through which to engage in habits of thinking and ways of being that best support the needs of diverse learners especially young children of color, children from non-dominant and minoritized groups, and immigrant children. I want them to be knowledgeable researchers and critical analysts of the world around them and informed decision makers not only as teachers but also as citizens of the world.

The School of Education's mission centers on four principles; community, equity, diversity and excellence. We, in the School of Education, believe each of these four principles is not only interrelated but also crucially interdependent and that, in combination, these represent an organizational framework through which teaching and learning unfolds in the School of Education. It is within this framework that our students develop theoretical understandings, core dispositions, and pedagogical practices that contribute to shaping who they are as teachers. 

Students in our early childhood program take courses such as children's literature from a critical literacy perspective, literacy in non-formal settings, play and learning and advocacy and leadership in early childhood settings. Such courses prepare our students to teach in diverse, inclusive, formal and non-formal environments such as schools and community settings, which serve the needs of children from birth to age 8 and their families. Child-centered and inquiry based philosophies inform their thinking as do critical literacies and multi-modal literacies.