Latin America: calling for free and universal early childhood education
EI’s Latin American Regional Office has taken steps to consolidate trade union work in early childhood education. A meeting of member organisations was convened to analyse, plan and unify trade union action in this field in Santiago, Chile, on 28 and 29 October 2013.
The regional meeting was attended by education union leaders from several Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and Chile, as well as representatives from Denmark.
The participants agreed that early childhood education is the only level of education that cannot be repeated at another time in life. The State should therefore establish policies and a public budget to guarantee education at this stage of life, ensuring that the same standards of quality and equality apply throughout the country.
Furthermore, public policy should ensure that early childhood educators have the same professional status and career as all educators.
The meeting also looked at systems for hiring staff, how to organise early childhood workers, what their principal demands were, and trade union strategies.
Dennis Sinyolo, Senior Coordinator in EI’s Education and Employment Unit, spoke of the global challenges in the sector, such as the lack of trained teachers, the multiplicity of institutions providing early childhood education, privatisation and the poor conditions facing teachers, among other things.
Sinyolo insisted on the importance of initial training, continuing professional development and specialisation. “High quality training and specialisation should be a priority in order to meet the developmental and educational needs of young children”.
Sinyolo also stressed the need to improve salaries and conditions of service for early childhood educators. Sinyolo went on to underline the critical role of ECE in “building the future through quality education, a strategy of early childhood education and the EI campaign: Unite for Quality Education”.
Universal and compulsory The participants decided to work towards getting countries to create the pedagogical changes and conditions necessary to provide universal, compulsory early childhood education.
It was also agreed that training should be backed by policies for growth, not only economic growth but policies that ensured sustainability for life, food, health and education.
Allan Baumann, Chairperson of the EI’s Early Childhood Education Task Force, attended the meeting, and underlined the importance of investing in early childhood education.
“A study carried out in Denmark recently showed that young children in the zero-3 year age group who had had early childhood experience outperformed their counterparts who had no access to ECE by Grade 9 and stayed longer in school”, he revealed.
EI Chief Regional Coordinator, Combertty Rodriguez, said the ECE meeting came at an opportune time as the region was consolidating its Pedagogical Movement. Through the Pedagogical Movement, the unions demand high quality public education for all, including early childhood education.
The meeting also looked at other key issues related to ECE such as child labour, gender perspectives, young trade unionists and the education movement.