Cultural Competence in Early Childhood Educators

In an article for the Canadian Childcare Federation (CCCF) Focus newsletter, Chanequa Cameron and Lyndsay Macdonald look at The Challenges of Cultural Competence: Exploring the Impacts of Race, Culture and Identity on Early Childhood Educator Practice. The authors start from the premise, “To truly define cultural competence, one must draw from past research which says that, ‘cultural competence’ is ‘the ability to think, feel, and act in ways that acknowledge, respect, and build upon ethnic, (socio)cultural, and linguistic diversity’ (Lynch & Hanson 1993).  Furthermore, Obegi and Ritblatt (2005) support that culturally salient care provides children with ‘a sense of security, belonging, and personal history.”  They note, “becoming culturally competent is a continuous professional practice that requires intentional effort and development”.

In their review of the research, they identify five elements of cultural competence:

  1. To understand and evaluate our teaching beliefs by reflecting on our own racial and cultural identity and understanding of biases.
  2. To embody and demonstrate qualities of ethics, morality and empathy.
  3. To engage in and value reflective practices individually and as part of a team.
  4. To make an honest and on-going commitment to research topics initiated by children and families in ECEC settings.
  5. To work from a perspective that each situation and individual is different due to their unique experiences with culture, race and identity.

The authors include in the article examples of how they became aware of the value of cultural competence through experiences in their own work as Early Childhood Educators.

Photo Credit: Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House
Photo Credit: Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House

They conclude their article with a quote from the research work of Han, West-Olantunji & Thomas (2011), “Although reflecting on and challenging one’s identity is a lifelong process, embedding racial identity development theory into the multicultural courses for early childhood teacher candidates as well as professional development for practicing teachers can help decrease their resistance while increasing their knowledge and skills in order to become effective educators of culturally diverse students,” and stress the significance of this as our country continues to diversify, including the ECE sector and the clients it serves.