Partnership is an integral aspect of successful Early Childhood Education. This partnership must exist not only between professionals involved in the education process of curriculum development and delivery, but also between the professionals of the field and parents. Partnership serves to provide learners with holistic support in educational accomplishment and throughout the educational journey (Ginsberg 2007). Discussed in this paper are the benefits of partnership for parents, children, and practitioners as it relates to early intervention, transition, and attachment. Also addressed is partnership as it relates to inclusion for all with regard to belief, culture, and traditions diversity (Moore 1998). These points will be examined in context of Irish regulation and legislation and will be preceded by an explanation of what partnership is and why it is important.
Essential to the understanding of the importance of partnership, is knowing what partnership is. There a variety of definitions that have been used in explaining the concept of partnership and they vary based on the field in which the term is used. For the purpose of this discussion, partnership is based most simplistically on the concept of sharing. What is shared is the responsibility and efforts that are geared toward success and accomplishment of a common goal, that goal being the facilitation of an effective educational experience in this discussion. In a partnership, every party is viewed as having something to contribute and decisions are made jointly. There is also respect for roles that are backed by legal and moral rights (Jackson & Morris 1994).
Understanding the Benefits
The benefits of partnerships between parents and teachers in Early Childhood Education are well documented and clear (Muscott et. al. 2008). The fact of the matter is that modern families spend far less time together than they used to. This often results in disengagement and lack of knowledge pertaining to the education of the children in the family (Martin 2001). Recent research has consistently indicated that when parents become involved in a child’s education, the child performs better academically. This is indicated by higher test score, better grades, improved attendance, more complete homework, and even improved attitudes and behaviors (Marschall 2006). The relationship is two-fold, as research also indicates that when parents received positive messages from teachers about the performance of their child, they actually begin to become even more involved in their child’s education. The establishment of partnerships between instructors and parents has been identified as an effective way to foster student learning.
Partnership serves an important role in early intervention. Such a partnership embodies the inclusion of the family in leadership and decision-making roles (Cochran 2007). This is specifically true as it relates to decisions about the kinds of teachers that need to be hired and the design that help should reflect as it related to early childhood curriculum and program practices (Nakonezny & Denton 2008). The inclusion of family in early intervention efforts demonstrates to families that their opinions are valued and affords practitioners with the benefit of support and more a more in-depth understanding of the needs of the child (National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learners1994). This, of course, benefits the child via a more effective design and delivery of services (O’Brien et. al. 2002).
Transition is a practice that impacts different children in different ways. While some children transition seamlessly from one academic milestone of environment to the next, others struggle greatly in this effort and require addition support and guidance to be successful. Transition is a very important aspect of early childhood learning. Partnerships between practitioners and parents enlist parents as a critical program component in every phase of the transition process (Lopez et. al 2004). This serves to keep parents informed and engaged in the preparation, planning, and implementation of said plans, thereby providing children and practitioners with a more holistic approach to services and more effective transition procedures that consider the individual social and learning characteristics of the child.
Attachment is a very sensitive aspect of early childhood education that must be considered. For the impacted children, attachment is far more than just a feeling. It is a critical part of healthy development. Attachment influences later relationships and social development. It also serves as the primary relationship from which all other relationships are formed. Partnership between the family and practitioners help them form deliberate and effective methods of ensuring that children have access to the kind of care and interaction needed to encourage attachment.
Diversity was once viewed as a challenge in early childhood education. Now it is viewed as an important aspect of the learning environment. Diversity provides young people with the cultural competence that is needed to be productive in this every changing society. Still, it does impact the approach to the delivery of education as well as design which is a point to consider as it relates to partnerships. Partnerships between practitioners and parents can assists in the understanding and incorporation of important diversity related aspects into educational pursuits and designs. This not only assists in a more deeply engrained understanding of material, but also a personalized approach to learning that facilitates continued growth and presentation of respect for the family.
Legislation in Ireland helps to support and emphasis the importance of partnerships (Mooney et. Al. 2003). (Kiernan & Walsh 2004). An example of such legislation includes Siolta. Síolta is the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education in Ireland. IT was developed by the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education (CECDE) in 2006. Síolta consists a set of principles, standards and components of quality to assist practitioners in their implementation of quality to early childhood education. One of the elements of research that supports Siolta is making connections (Pena 2002). This element focuses on the multi-cultural society that Ireland has become alongside parental involvement and social inclusion as vital elements for supporting and developing quality in early childhood education (National Childcare Accreditation Council Inc. 2004).
In conclusion, partnerships between parents and practitioners play an important role in early childhood education. Education and learning in general permeates every aspect of a child’s life. If the journey of learning is to be one of meaning and effectiveness, it must be holistic with regard to the life of the child. In as such, partnerships between family and practitioners are critical.
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