An ex-lawyer’s path to fulfilling her dream to become an ECT
It’s no secret Australia’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector is under strain. The workforce shortages across the sector can be devastating for not only educators, but the young learners caught in a disruptive shuffle as services across the country attempt to plug teaching gaps.
For early childhood educators the pressure is evident, with many having to take on additional roles and longer hours to compensate for short-staffed centres. While more needs to be done to attract new faces into the ECEC sector, it’s time the talent already working in early learning is properly recognised and supported to pursue further education to upskill into early childhood teaching.
Many educators face barriers when pursuing further study; as workplaces feel the pinch of staffing many are reluctant to take study leave and interrupt the continuity of care for the children. Understandably, another concern for educators is a loss of income for the duration of their study, as most courses require students to undertake periods of unpaid placements that chew up their annual leave.
The freedom to teach – and learn
When Gagandeep Kaur moved to Australia, she seized the opportunity to leave behind her legal career and pursue her lifelong dream of working with children.
Growing up in India, Gagandeep fulfilled her parents’ ambitions for her and became a lawyer. Later in life when she and her husband moved to Australia, she embraced the fresh start and the chance to fulfill her own career aspirations to help shape young minds.
After six years in a service she loves, working as an educator at the Butterflies Childcare and Early Learning Centre in Victoria, Gagandeep decided to take the next step in her journey and upskill to become an early childhood teacher (ECT).
Wanting to pursue a career as an ECT but reluctant to leave her colleagues and children at her current place of work, Gagandeep enrolled in Swinburne Online’s Graduate Diploma of Early Childhood Teaching, meeting the requirements to enrol because she held a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care, and had five years of experience working in the ECEC sector.
“The course was a perfect fit for me, as it meant I didn’t have to choose between my work and my own education,” Gagandeep shared.
“It’s great to be able to study online and undertake my placements at my work so I don’t leave my team short-staffed, and fit study around my own family commitments.”
Working full-time and caring for her own little one, Gagandeep still wanted to progress in her career. Being able to do the course online while she works has made this possible and she’s had nothing but support from her team.
“My team is amazing and so supportive of me. I’m learning new things every day from my course and, of course, the children and colleagues around me.”
Advice for others wanting to upskill
When asked what advice she would give those interested in the course, Gagandeep told us that “this course could be a pathway for people who otherwise would not have the opportunity”.
“I’m getting high-quality learning in intense periods as the course is only 12 months long – my online tutors at Swinburne Online have been incredibly supportive, and it’s been so exciting to watch how what I’m learning is already benefiting the children I work with every day.”
Gagandeep feels supported by her colleagues in her workplace and is grateful for the opportunity to not only work beside them but learn from them, and that their teachings contribute towards her formal qualification.
“My manager does nothing but encourage me, my colleague has swapped shifts with me when I needed to focus on assignments that I had due. I feel so lucky to be learning in a supported and familiar environment,” she told us.
Designed by the sector, for the sector
With demand for ECTs projected to grow by more than 20 per cent by 2026, it was evident to leaders in the ECEC and the education sector that facilitating a better pathway for more educators to pursue ECT qualifications was well overdue.
Swinburne Online’s Graduate Diploma of Early Childhood Teaching is a one-year postgraduate qualification that allows educators who hold a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care, and have five years of experience working in the ECEC sector to become qualified teachers without sacrificing quality.
Professionally accredited with ACECQA, the course was co-designed with ECEC sector experts including the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) and the College for Australian Early Childhood Education (CAECE) to ensure that students are highly qualified for the unique demands of early childhood learning.
Students are taught educational theory and pedagogical practices by sector leaders and benefit from the bulk of their in-service placements being held at their workplace to increase confidence and transform theory into real-world practice.
By allowing students to undertake three of their four professional placements in their place of work, the Graduate Diploma alleviates pressure for those who don’t have the option between pursuing their own education and their work – as well as the early learning services themselves.
With a holistic approach that focuses on children’s behaviour, environment management techniques and children’s health, Swinburne Online graduates are well positioned to help children learn, grow and develop in a rapidly evolving world.
Take your career to the next level
Applications for Swinburne Online’s Graduate Diploma of Early Childhood Teaching are now open to those educators who hold a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and have five years experience in the ECEC sector.
With four intakes a year and flexible unit availability, educators have the freedom to begin the course at their convenience.
Image courtesy of David Caird, Herald Sun
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