Virtue Ethics Frameworks as Drivers of Teacher’s Systems Advocacy

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In early education children's interests are not at the forefront of the ecce policy; instead, policy is aligned to providing 'childcare” to encourage economic growth and the expandsiion of the workforce and this leads to increasing national productivity. Moving on now to consider the ethical values of the early educators' profession. NAEYC recognizes professionals in the area of early years on a daily basis are met with situations which raise moral and ethical concerns and values. The Statement of Commitment is a personal recognition of their willingness to uphold and cherish the values and morals of the profession. The following part of the paper moves on to discuss systems advocacy in greater detail, reviewing the elements of duty-based, utility-based and virtue ethics frameworks as drivers of teacher's systems advocacy.

Duty-based ethics is a systematic moral philosophy created through reflection by Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). The framework of this type of ethics is that emphasises duties as the foundations of which we develop our morality. Certain duties included within a professional ethical code constitutes as a professional obligation. Duties can be taken from an interpretation of the role, or from the commitments to justice.

Virtue-based morals are focused on the development of certain positive traits rather than concentrating directly on sole individual actions. Because of this it is called agent-based ethics, in contrast to the act-based approaches to utility and duty-focused ethics. While there several virtues, the ones that spark the most interest are the commitment to justice, courage, fortitude and passionate commitment. Interestingly the one that was remarked on most was the virtue of justice, understood predominately, and consistent with teachers construction with fairness and the lack of inequality.

As was pointed on in the introduction of the paper, this section will now examine advocacy in the early years in the Irish context and then move to the international context. These ethical underpinnings discussed earlier must stay at the forefront of our minds in the early education sector. As there is growing concerns about the Irish early education sector, the approach now is putting unimaginable financial pressure and unrealistic expectations upon families and the professionals working in the sector.

There is consensus among all stakeholders' is that early childhood education and care should be affordable and high-quality. In addition to our current model of childcare is not only failing to deliver on these aims, but it is setting every stakeholder against each other too. Neoliberal principles of choice and competition in early years education are dominanting the conversations around early education in Ireland. Moss (2006) states parents are the consumers but nowadays in Ireland there is not much choice and the cost is high.

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If the sector is to evolve and create the best possibilities of care and educational opportunities for the most vulnerable in our society, our children we must advocate as a team and co-operate. It is best achieved through the involvement of all participants. It is urgent that the Government acts not only to increase investment and revise or recreate or renovate an early year's strategy into the sector. There is a huge gap when it comes to a vision for the future planning, investment and development of the sector to deliver quality to childcare.

Many countries share issues similar to each other such as the changing role of preschool education. Literature from the UK, Hong Kong, Australia and the USA have raised common concerns about the increasing formalisation of preschool education, and the power of a socio-economic, neoliberal rhetoric altering the way in which we think about the early years education.

In Australia, policy reforms in the early childhood sector have been rexamined. What is the driving force behind this policy, is there an economic agenda. There is also tensions around the demands being placed on practitioners. For example, further study and the impact of this on early years services and children’s learning yet no increase in pay for the educators. 

All educators worldwide are not teaching for the money, but for the love of the work and the positive impact they can make on the children’s lives and vice versa. For advocacy to work correctly in the early years we need all stakeholders' voices heard loud and clear, early educators primary concern is the rights of the child that they lose sight of the bigger picture.

The goal of the paper was to examine the concept of advocacy and the role of the early years professional in advocating for children, families, communities and the sector. The significance of advocacy in the early years sector is strongly supported by the four areas discussed in the paper. Before proceeding to examine the professional’s perceptions of advocacy and the impact of it. 

What follows from this is an account of systems theory, the need for educators to learn to advocate on a macro level. It is then made evident that the interpretation of an early year's educator is then holding back the sector from advocating for themselves. In the next section, we reviewed the code of ethics and the consequences of upholding these principles and ideals on the work of an early educator. The final section in the paper addresses advocacy within the context of early years in an Irish and then an international perspective.

But throughout all this research it is clear, that the early education sector it filled with so much separation and lack of communication among stakeholders. But if it's not a group effort the potential and reach of those professionals' efforts cannot to fully utilised. It is not a one size fits all industry it is not a once off solution, it's an ongoing process with continuous communication because society is always going to have young children to continue to flourish, most importantly it's not an industry, it's not supposed to make a profit as it currently is in Ireland.      

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