Without qualifications or engaging in further study, educators miss the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their work through being exposed to multiple and new perspectives about education and care.
Qualifications matter but they are rarely the sole measure used to employ someone. When recruiting new staff, we often interview educators with the same qualification status, but the selection process usually includes considering other factors such as values, experience and personal qualities. Qualifications, values, experience and personal qualities are not sufficient on their own for employment in our sector. Together, they provide a good indicator of someone’s suitability for the work.
It’s true for all training institutions and all professions that conferring a qualification doesn’t guarantee every graduate is uniformly of high quality. We have all worked with qualified staff who are ineffective or not work ready. However, ineffective or unready qualified educators are not an argument against qualifications, instead they are an argument for improving:
- the selection of applicants into courses
- the quality of course content and delivery through robust regulatory and accreditation systems
- course requirements so that students cannot pass a course without intellectual effort
- support for new graduates at the same level as teachers in school systems
- requirements for trainers and academics to have relevant experience and qualifications
- connections between training bodies and education and care services.
We can help break down the ‘class system’ in education between the compulsory education sector and our sector by ensuring we have a qualified workforce to challenge the stereotype that we are merely ‘child minders.’ Under NQF reforms, many educators have been empowered to stay in the sector and have their knowledge and skills affirmed and extended through further study. Improving RPL systems and scholarships for educators to study are also important ways for supporting retention rather than attrition.
Qualifications matter for educators
- An unqualified workforce is politically risky: easily forgotten and over-regulated.
- An unqualified workforce is industrially risky: low remuneration, status, and conditions.
- An unqualified workforce is not good for its’ members’ wellbeing: more likely to suffer burnout, to be over stressed, and have less job satisfaction.
Qualifications matter for children, families and communities
- An unqualified workforce is less likely to have the specialised knowledge and skills to respond ethically to children’s complex and diverse interests, strengths and abilities.
- An unqualified workforce is more likely to suffer burnout and to be stressed, which makes them less available for or attuned to children and families.
- An unqualified workforce is less likely to have the specialised knowledge and skills for building meaningful partnerships with children and families.
- An unqualified workforce is less likely to become trusted and valued professionals in families’ and children’s lives.
- An unqualified workforce is less likely to have the skills and knowledge to work collaboratively with other professionals.
Competent, confident and connected children have a right to be educated and cared for by competent and connected educators. Gaining specialised qualifications is an important indicator of educators’ likely competence and confidence to engage in the challenging work of becoming and being an educator.
Anne Kennedy wrote The Evidence Brief on Staff to Child Ratios and Educator Qualification Requirements of the National Quality Framework on behlf of Early Childhood Australia. Download the full Evidence Brief here.