Qualifications matter

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.

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Anne Kennedy

Dr Anne Kennedy works as a consultant, trainer, writer and researcher in early childhood education. She was a member of the small writing team led by Charles Sturt University which developed Belonging, Being and Becoming, The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Since the launch of the Early Years Learning Framework she has provided training for early childhood educators across the country.

5 thoughts on “Qualifications matter”

    Gael Nash says:

    Thank you Anne for this article. Terminology is so important to convey meaning and intent. The lexicon of early childhood professionals needs further attention and this can be achieved by professional development and education. The way we see ourselves has to be presented differently. We are Early Childhood Educators NOT child minders or child carers. The language is not even used by our own people. Child Care and Early Learning title of the Productivity Commissions inquiry is the language of our politicians and broader community who have the understanding that child care is something we do in our society for children under 5. Guess we don’t “care” once they go to school. Guess Early Learning does not equate to educational pedagogical practice and the level of education required by those people who are expected to develop educational programmes for 0-5 year olds as stated in the NQF. Too many anomalies. We must get the language right.

    Adele Holden says:

    Totally confer on your thoughts … Ineffective or unready requires improvement in qualifications

    Maree Aldwinckle says:

    I would like to see an ECA position statement or analysis about the current children’s training package qualifications which have be revised to a point where core knowledge about development and curriclum areas has been significantly reduced to make way for compliance related content and flavour of the month type topics like sustainability. We have a whole unit on sustainabilty while key content about music, visual arts and creative plays have been crammed together. Similarly, children’s literature, maths and science have been bundled together with child development into one unit. These training package qualifications need serious rethinking and pressure from some peakorganisations would help.

    Melea says:

    all good in theory, but how many people can you say, have $6000 to study the diploma at TAFE, or in my case a spare, $5000 out of pocket child care cost so I can go to uni to ‘learn how to look after other peoples children’, (dont get me started about increased HECS!) when it comes to my own, or many other sole parents, nobodys looking out for them! They want increased quals whilst placing REAL BARRIERS in achieving this. All you end up with is attracting mediocrity, as you state: ‘those motivated by ease of getting in’ and less of a passionate experienced and reliable workforce of parents that NEED employment for the sake of their children!

    Gael Nash says:

    So with you Malea. The wages suck. And the conditions. I had to wait till I was in my late 550’s to persue further graduate studies at university because couldn’t afford the cost. I am a passionate mature age student doing an Honoyrs program in EC finally. Keep speaking up. We are the ones that will bring about the change in our society NOT “nice ladies”. Our situation has been likened to the suffragete movement. Strong protests and strikes would wake people up if they couldn’t go to work because no-one was there to care and educate their kids hey. The private sector of EC and community centres too are not looking after the workforce.

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