The early childhood education (ECE) system is the initial link of all pedagogical training. At this stage, first speech and reading skills are formed, as well as the process of acquaintance with the world around them. At the same time, young children are very vulnerable: poor care, limitations, lack of attention, and violence affect and traumatize the child. For this reason, a significant role in sociology and educational theory is given to the skills of effective communication between the child, caregiver, and parents through partnerships. This essay aims to analyze the effectiveness of collaboration in early childhood education critically.
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At the outset, it is essential to note that the need for assistance from ECE educators is not mandatory since parents can educate their children independently. Sometimes parents seek help from ECE specialists to increase their child’s development potential. One approach to problem-solving can be called a collaborative partnership (Chan & Ritchie, 2016). The concept of collaborative partnership is based on the idea that integrating families and educators is highly desirable because it has a positive impact on a child’s learning outcomes (May, 2013). Parents delegate some responsibilities to the teachers while they actively contribute to the harmonious development of the student. With the help of ECE, the child usually consolidates the knowledge that he or she may have gained at home: the child practices arithmetic, reading, communication skills, and everyday activities.
Discussion of collaborative partnership cannot be realized without the primary object of such cooperation, namely, a child. It is imperative to note that a child, having become a pupil of new teachers, enters a stressful and challenging environment for him/her (Te One, 2011). Through well-established collaboration between parents and educators in ECE, the child has ample opportunity to realize his or her hidden potential and fully develop (Chan & Ritchie, 2016). ECE’s daily practice plays a significant role in this: repeating education outside the home day in and day out empowers the child and has a positive impact on cooperation. From this point of view, each party must responsibly create a modulating environment.
The harmonious development of children depends above all on how adults interact in this process. The result of education can be successful only if teachers and parents become equal partners (May, 2013). This union is based on the unity of aspirations and views on the educational process. Both teachers and parents want their children to be developed and healthy, so parents are ready to support the initiatives of teachers aimed at meeting and developing the interests and needs of children (May, 2013). Thanks to the joint partnership, parents can solve several problems related to an integrated approach to the upbringing of their child and to obtaining psychological and emotional support. It should be understood that parents are adults who have a lot of life experience and knowledge and can analyze situations, so in solving several problems, the teacher can also get necessary and useful advice from them (Amatea, Smith-Adcock, & Villares, 2006). At the same time, the majority of parents are not professional educators. They do not have specialized knowledge in the area of upbringing and education of children, and often have difficulties in establishing contacts with children (May, 2013). Together, teachers and parents look for the most effective ways of solving this problem. The collaboration between educators and parents allows them to get to know the child better, to look at him or her from different perspectives, and to see him or her in different situations. Therefore, it helps to understand his or her characteristics, to develop the child’s abilities, and to overcome their negative actions, as well as to form valuable life orientations.
Significance of Collaborative Partnership in ECE
As already mentioned, the main task of any ECE institution is to preserve and improve the physical and mental health of its pupils. The success of this responsible work cannot be achieved in isolation from the family, because parents are the first and primary caretakers of their child from birth and for life (Sanders, & Munford, 2010). The primary purpose of interaction between teachers and the parents of their pupils is, first of all, professional assistance to the family in the upbringing of children, while not replacing it, but supplementing and ensuring a complete realization of its educational functions. In the course of collaborative interaction, the child’s parents act as partners rather than pupils (Chan & Ritchie, 2016). The essential feature of the social partnership between educators and parents is the transition from a formal type of interaction to a position of concerted, collaborative action, assigning all responsibility for the quality of upbringing and development of the child to both the teachers of the preschool educational organization and parents (Sanders & Munford, 2010). The collaborative partnership implies mutually beneficial and constructive interaction, which bears the characteristics of trust, is justified by common goals and values, is voluntary and long-term, and recognizes responsibility for the results of both parties. Models of social partnership between teachers and parents are a process of interpersonal interaction, the final result of which is the formation of a conscious attitude of parents to their views on the upbringing of the child.
Challenges for Developing CP in ECE
There is a problem of interaction between a teacher and parents. The issue of effective communication is complicated by the fact that some parents consciously do not seek to participate in the educational process of the child, shifting the responsibility entirely to the teachers (Sanders & Munford, 2010). In other words, even with an outstanding educator and the appropriate structure of the institution where the extracurricular activities take place, many causes give rise to complicated relationships. The specificity of the educator’s position concerning parents is that it combines two functions: formal and informal. The educator acts both as an official and a trusted interlocutor (Duncan, 2006). The task of the educator is to overcome elements of edification concerning the family members of the pupil and to develop a way of trusting communication.
The lack of effective communication can hurt a child’s learning. Difficulties in communicating together may be primarily due to a lack of understanding of the role adults should play in the learning process (Boylan & Dalrymple, 2009). According to research by Boylan and Dalrymple (2009), parents and educators need to listen to their children’s views to be able to assess issues that are of more significant concern to learners. Thus, the challenge for adults is to identify a joint strategy to create a unique and stimulating environment for the child’s more harmonious development. Interestingly, the same problem is highlighted in the O’Brien and Salonen study (2011), which also concluded that children should have the right to participate in the educational process. In such a case, both parents and teachers should contribute to all kinds of empowerment of children.
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Parallel education of children in the family and kindergarten pursues common goals and objectives, as well as the desire to implement a comprehensive approach to learning in joint activities. No matter how seriously the forms of the upbringing of children in ECE establishments are considered, no matter how highly qualified the staff of ECE establishments, the goal cannot be achieved without the constant support and active participation of parents in the educational process (Amatea et al., 2006). The comprehensive and harmonious development of a child’s personality requires the unity and coherence of the entire system of adult education and training effects on the child.
In particular, the first lessons learned by a child entering kindergarten are related to the acquisition of primary self-service skills. The teacher shall teach the child the ability to dress, clean up toys after classes, or make up the bed. Successful acquisition of such powers by children is possible only if they have unity in working with the family: the child should continue to use the acquired skills at home (May, 2013). The creation of a unified educational environment is necessary to unlock the potential of each child. That is why cooperation and communication on equal terms are required – such interaction between teachers and parents, where neither party has the right to control. May (2013) noted that “it is not surprising that the most effective early years setting and schools have been found to work closely with parents” (p. 58). Typical of a modern family is the desire to combine family education with public education, as well as the correct understanding of the educational functions of public institutions. Unity in upbringing carried out by the kindergarten and the family ensures a specific systematic work of the child’s body and the development of dynamic stereotypes. Moral feelings and representations of the child are more successfully formed, and behavior habits and skills become more robust. In other words, all aspects of the pedagogical process benefit from a joint partnership between parents and teachers (Clarkin-Phillips, 2012). Parents take an active part in their children’s lives, thus better understanding and building relationships, and teachers interact with parents to learn more about the child, allowing them to choose effective means of care and education. Empowering both sides actively promotes the child’s personal growth and prevents the destruction of family resilience (Walsh, 2008). Collaborative partnerships between parents and educators simulate a situation where children find themselves in a new space feeling more comfortable, relaxed, and confident, leading to better learning and fewer dysfunctional conflicts with adults and peers (Nitecki, 2015). Therefore, the most harmonious development of a child should take place both within the walls of the educational institution and at home so that the child is fully supported and emotionally connected with the parent.
One of the directions of modern social psychology is connected with the study of the environment in which a child develops and how this environment determines the formation of personality. American psychologist Uri Bronfenbrenner has advanced the theory that the child development environment consists of five systems that have a consistent influence on each other (Clarkin-Phillips, 2012). These systems include the family, ECE, adult social organizations, and values. The Bronfenbrenner model emphasizes flexible connections, both direct and indirect, between these four systems. According to a psychologist, the connection between microsystems, such as the family and the early education center, can be realized through a mesosystem. The relationship between parents and caregivers has a direct impact on the child: research demonstrates the critical importance of building strong links within the mesosystem (Clarkin-Phillips, 2012). For example, according to Clarkin-Phillips, the stronger the educated connections, and thus the better the communication between the teacher and the parents, the higher the potential for the child’s development. In this way, the different environments in which the child participates have a direct impact on personal change and cognitive, moral, and relational growth. In Bronfenbrenner’s theory, children are both products and creators of the environment. Situations in life can be either imposed on the child or the result of the child’s activity (Clarkin-Phillips, 2012). As children grow older, they change their environment and rethink the experience they have gained, but in this case, the patterns defined by Bronfenbrenner still work.
Principle for Collaborative Partnerships
The principle of collaborative partnerships between teachers and parents is based on the establishment and formation of friendly and trustworthy relations. The achievement of this goal is possible if the teacher excludes didacticism in work with parents, does not teach, but advises, reflects together with them, and agrees on joint actions (Chan & Ritchie, 2016). A teacher shall tactfully lead parents to understand the problem and encourage them to solve it. The whole atmosphere of interaction and communication of a teacher with parents shall convince him that he or she needs to interact with the child’s relatives and close friends, join efforts with them, that his or her parents are allies and he or she cannot do without their advice and assistance.
Early childhood education institutions should act as agents of psychological and social support, not only for children but also for their parents. First and foremost, families seeking help need emotional and mental support. Studies conducted by Sanders and Munford (2010) show that teachers need to address parents’ fear of interfering with their private family life. For some adults, seeking help can be problematic because they fear judgment and misunderstanding from outside. When they take a severe step, these adults expect them to feel fully supported and safe. This means that a learning educator must create an environment in which it is impossible to try to judge a family or recognize it as inferior (May, 2013). The most important task for educators at this stage is to convince doubtful parents that there is nothing wrong or embarrassing about asking for help and support in raising their children (Sanders & Munford, 2010). For example, the Clarkin-Phillips (2012) study provides an example of a parent who finds support in difficult times in a parent group formed for this purpose. Parents who are aware of their weaknesses and understand their strengths are more likely to survive hardship, save their family, and protect their children in crises.
It is important to note that establishing an effective joint partnership takes time. The process of building relationships that will contribute to the development of the child is a long one. In particular, models of relationships go through some stages in their evolution, but the teacher plays the central coordinating role (Nitecki, 2015). The steps of the association may include the initial development of the future model of communication, the process of building the relationship itself, and the resolution of problems that arise. Regardless of the phase, the educator should interest parents in the work that they will do together and create a full image of the child in the eyes of the parents (Chan & Ritchie, 2016). However, paradoxical it may seem, the teacher should expand the range of opportunities for parents by providing the child with conditions in which he or she can develop more widely (Nitecki, 2015). For example, in a home environment, a pupil cannot communicate with other children. In contrast, in an early education institution such as a kindergarten, the child actively interacts with other children. In this way, ECE contributes to the child’s potential (May, 2013).
Family and preschool are two critical institutions for the socialization of children. Their educational functions are different, but for the comprehensive development of the child, their close cooperation is necessary. Both sides of the partnership need to create such conditions that would allow parents and teachers to become genuinely equal participants in the educational process. Only in combination with each other do they create optimal conditions for a pupil to enter the more mature world of school. A common position of teachers and parents in understanding the prospects and interaction between them are the necessary conditions for a child’s development. In the ECE organization, the child receives an education, learns the skill of communication with society and the ability to plan his or her activities. We can safely say that the potential of the child’s opportunities is growing, as his or her world view is expanding.
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