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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Places that speak : diversity and social responsibility in Canadian early childhood education Diaz-Diaz, Claudia Andrea


A multicultural approach to diversity and social responsibility still prevails in Canadian early childhood education despite the critiques of Indigenous and early childhood education scholars. Acritical multicultural pedagogies have failed to interrupt the assimilation of children’s cultural backgrounds and continue to divert attention from the legacies of colonialism and racism in contemporary society. In 2019, the British Columbia Ministry of Education launched the revamped version of the Early Learning Framework which has committed to acknowledging the impact of colonialism while fostering children’s relationships with place. In light of this commitment, diversity and social responsibility need to be reconceptualized. This dissertation investigates how young children encounter and learn about diversity and responsibility through the places they do and do not have access to in early childhood education. Taking a critical place inquiry approach, this study examines children’s relationships with place in a childcare centre located in a highly urbanized and culturally diverse neighbourhood in East Vancouver, Canada. First, I examine the prevalent narratives and practices about diversity and social responsibility that take place in the neighbourhood as well as within the childcare centre. Then, I identify the barriers that impede educators and children from encountering diversity and engage in responsible relationships toward place. The analysis suggests that multicultural pedagogies continue to prevent educators and children from learning about the impact of colonialism in Canada. Early childhood policies, curriculum, and pedagogies implement – to different degrees – forms of protection by setting up boundaries, although sometimes necessary, in tension with pedagogies that support diversity and responsibility. More specifically, I demonstrate that: 1) adult concerns about children’s safety may preclude opportunities for them to engage with Indigeneity in the neighbourhood reinforcing settler-colonial practices in early childhood education; and that 2) pedagogies that foster responsibility as dependent on the individual child not only limit access to certain places but also impede children’s engagement with responsible practices toward place. I conclude by discussing how the understanding of children’s relationships with place allows researchers and educators to reconceptualize the notions of diversity and responsibility in early childhood education and support educators in fostering children’s encounters with diversity through place.

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