Research activity 3: Cultural competence Question 1: The four key elements to understanding the construction of culture are defined as follows. 1. Culture is acquired. 2. Culture is shared. 3. Culture defines core values. 4. Cultures resist change but are not static. What do these mean to you in relation to early childhood? Answer: Ultimately culture is all-encompassing; it impacts on what you do, who you are and how you are defined. The first three learning outcomes of the EYLF are that (DEEWR 2009 in Arthur et al. 2012): children have a strong sense of identity children are connected with and contribute to their world children have a strong sense of wellbeing. These all link strongly to the key elements above and demonstrate the necessity of cultural competence in early childhood. Kidd argues in the first weblink that ‘culture is seen as the cement that bonds individuals together. It is made up of shared and collective symbols and it shapes our lives. It gives us the rules by which to live our lives. It hovers over us, structuring the world around us’. Question 2: How do you ensure that particular cultural knowledge and practices are not given more value or importance than others? Answer: Relationships with families are crucial. This does not mean one family, and not another – it means building a relationship with each family that is mutually comfortable and ensures they feel valued and respected within the service. It is not just about the direct experiences you present, but rather the underpinning value you place on each child and family within your service. While you may have an Aboriginal Elder visit the service more often than a link with a Chinese family for example, this does not mean less respect or value is intended. However, you need to look at creating close links with multicultural services if you do not have a Chinese family enrolled, to consider ways of incorporating elements of Chinese culture within the program. Songs from a range of Asian countries can be included, specific references to individual countries and cultures can be made and resources representative of both traditional and contemporary within cultures included. These more overt representations are important, but the daily incorporation of respect and inclusion is far more powerful. This prevents a tokenistic approach; rather, the focus is on fostering continuous curiousness, interest and above all, respect within the children, families and staff of the service. Question 3: How can you remain curious in your relationships with children and families within and across cultures? Answer: Families have so much to offer. An effective educator is one who continues to be a learner. Ask questions, observe and seek information to help build accurate knowledge, understanding and appreciation. At times, there are educators who feel that by asking questions they are appearing less knowledgeable or even discriminatory by not understanding something. However, it is always best to ask and learn accurate information rather than just making assumptions or generalisations. These assumptions often lead to judgements from inaccurate perspectives being developed. The more you learn, the more you often want to learn! Question 4: At what level do we need to address culture? Answer: According to the EYLF (second weblink), within a centre context it is important that cultural competence is applied on three levels: individual level service level systems level. The individual level encompasses things such as knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours. The interactions that occur and relationships that are formed between educators, educators and children, and educators and families are situated within this individual level. At the service level, the centre philosophy will lay a foundation. Centre policies, procedures and practices will reflect the views of the service. The children, families and community should also be part of these documents. The system level will be evident in the way services relate to local community people and agencies and respect local protocols (EYLF-PLP 2011).