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Cultural Competency: Why It’s Important for ECEs

January 27, 2024

What is culture?

We all may have different understandings of the word culture. One study, Culture, Parenting, and Zero-to-Threes (2015) by Marc H. Bornstein (click here to access) outlines culture as, “distinctive patterns of norms, ideas, values, conventions, behaviours, and symbolic representations about life that are shared by a collection of people, persist over time, guide and regulate daily living, and constitute valued competencies that are communicated by mature members of the social group to new members.”

There is not just one definition of cultural competency because definitions have evolved from different perspectives. The Government of Canada defines cultural competency as, “The ability to self-reflect on one's own cultural values and how these impact the way one provides care, as well as continually learning to gain a deeper understanding of another's culture. It includes each health professional's ability to assess and respect the values, attitudes and beliefs of persons from other cultures and respond appropriately in planning, implementing, and evaluating a plan of care that incorporates health-related beliefs and cultural values, knowledge of disease incidence and prevalence, and treatment efficacy.” (Click here to read more from the Government of Canada website.)

Why is cultural competency important for ECEs?

ECEs need to be competent in the cultures of others because this foundation is essential for creating inclusive learning environments where all children feel valued, respected, and empowered. ECEs who have taken cultural competency training are prepared to:

Support diversity;
Consider cultural differences in maintaining effective communication with families;
Understand unintentional biases and stereotypes;
Promote equity;
Build relationships with families from diverse backgrounds;
Prepare children for a diverse world.

Interested in learning more about how you can become more culturally competent? The McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership (click here to learn more about this organisation) has a great article, “Taking Steps Toward Cultural Competence Through Meaningful Conversations (2023)” written by Marie Masterson that you can read through at your own pace.

The article (click here to access) provides some excellent beginner strategies for ELCC leaders to increase their cultural competence. The article also provides additional resources for you to check out.


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