Development of ECE educators’ professional identity under the free kindergarten policy

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Development of ECE educators’ professional identity under the free kindergarten policy

Policy research has been a research focus at the HKMU that faculty members have been carrying out relevant research within their own areas of expertise. At the School of Education and Languages, which runs the University’s long-standing and in-demand Early Childhood Education (ECE) programmes, Dr Jessie Wong has studied the development of local pre-school teachers’ professional identity under the free kindergarten education policy.
 
This project, funded by the Faculty Development Scheme of the Research Grants Council, was prompted by the introduction of the Free Quality Kindergarten Education Scheme (FQKES), which replaced the Pre-primary Education Voucher Scheme (PEVS). ‘This policy may change the dynamics between teachers, parents and the Government. Under the PEVS, kindergartens were very much market-driven as they had to compete for students who held the vouchers,’ Dr Wong explains. ‘By subsidising kindergartens that opt to join the FQKES directly, the Government will re-establish its control over the formerly private kindergarten sector in the long run.’
 
To assess early childhood educators’ perception of their professional identity in this context, Dr Wong conducted surveys with about 270 principals and teachers from over 80 FQKES kindergartens, and 175 pre-service teachers from seven ECE training institutions. In particular, the survey with pre-service teachers found that while 80% of the interviewees considered themselves professionals, 60% of them also believed that the public in general thought otherwise. Dr Wong found this result consistent with her impression of the public’s perception of the ECE sector. ‘We often hear of parents choosing a kindergarten for its ‘caring’ and ‘loving’ teachers, while the teachers’ knowledge and skills aren’t part of their consideration. We have yet to conduct further analyses, but from what we’ve gathered, something has to be done to correct the impression that kindergarten teachers are no more than nice ladies who love to play with children,’ she elaborates. ‘The Government should take the lead in promoting early childhood educators as trained professionals, whereas teacher training institutions will have to think about how to help teachers-to-be understand that they’re doing very meaningful groundwork in education.’
 
For more details about the research findings, please refer to the following publication generated from the project: