Updated: Apr 6, 2022
Traditional Irish culture and Irish Traveller culture in ECEC.
Where are the Resources?
Over the last number of weeks I have been researching the availability of resources to support both the traditional Irish culture and the Irish Traveller culture in ECEC. To be honest, I have been surprised at the lack of such resources available. I have no doubt that there are many wonderful practitioners out there who have perhaps developed or sourced their own resources in this regard, however, to find accessible resources through online forums and sources usually accessed by professional practitioners has proven difficult.
Moving away from Tokenism
In the Aistear curriculum framework one of the main themes of Identity and Belonging describes how important it is for children to develop a strong sense of self and their culture and community. Of course, this is extremely important for children within a minority culture who we must support to see their unique culture, language and traditions represented in the ECEC setting. However, what about the incorporation of traditional Irish culture and Irish Traveller culture? Apart from St. Patrick’s Day and the tokenistic introduction of flags and shamrocks for one week in March, perhaps we need to reflect on when traditional Irish culture and Irish Traveller culture are represented at other times and incorporated as an intrinsic part of the curriculum alongside all other diverse and wonderful cultures which we aim to represent appropriately and authentically in ECEC?
Irish Traveller Culture
When considering Irish Traveller culture, the most recent Pobal report on the ECEC sector highlights that there is an increase in Traveller children engaging in ECEC. Yet, I found it extremely difficult to locate resources to enable representation of Irish Traveller culture within the ECEC curriculum. In fact, I had to start searching UK based sites where I eventually found a very limited number of practical resources.
Traditional Irish Culture
I also wonder if we doing enough to represent traditional Irish culture within ECEC practice? If we display a welcome banner in a variety of languages, do we include a tokenistic Irish welcome? Perhaps, but what else are we doing? I suggest that we must do more in general to represent a wider and more diverse range of cultures which should include traditional Irish culture and the Irish Traveller culture.
How Do We Do It?
There is no doubt that our Aistear and Síolta frameworks place great importance on the need for all cultures, including traditional Irish and Irish Traveller culture, to be represented and celebrated in order to promote an environment which is inclusive, diverse and equitable, but how? We understand “what” we need to do, but there seems to be a dire lack of practical resources to help us understand “how” to do it. This is an important knowledge gap which I believe we need to fill and not only in settings where Irish speakers or Traveller children are in attendance, but in all settings.
Replacing "Other" with "Us"
Instead of considering cultural diversity and inclusion to mean cultures perhaps perceived as “other” to our own, maybe we should endeavour to represent all cultures equitably and in doing so we can enable children to see themselves and their peer’s cultural identity and belonging represented in an equitable and respectful way in the ECEC environment. Perhaps we need to move away from the sense of “othering” when considering how to represent cultural diversity and move towards a more cohesive ethos of “us” together, represented within our community equitably and respectfully, facilitated to learn about each other, work with each other, understand each other and celebrate each other.
Moving forward, I hope to begin gathering cultural resources, initially regarding the Irish Traveller culture which I will post to the Toolbox on my website. Subsequently, I would like to continue to build the website Toolbox to include resources on a diverse range of cultures as an open educational resource for ECEC practitioners. If you have any ideas or resources related to representation of cultural diversity generally or traditional Irish and Irish Traveller culture which you feel would be useful to other practitioners, please contact me and I can share them for the benefit of others on the website.
About the Author:
Paula Walshe is an ECEC trainer and placement assessor in the further education and training sector and a freelance writer. She currently holds a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Education and will complete her studies for a Master’s Degree in Leadership for ECEC in 2022. Paula has extensive ECEC experience in both pedagogical practice and ECEC management. You can learn more about Paula’s work at her website (www.thedigitalearlychildhoodeducator.ie), where she writes a weekly blog on current topics in Early Childhood Education and Care in Ireland and provides useful professional and academic resources for students and professionals in this sector. Paula is also one of the creators of an ECE community of practice based on Twitter: ECE Quality Ireland (@ECEQualityIRL) / Twitter Contact Paula: LinkedIn: Paula Walshe / Twitter: @digitalearlyed / Instagram: @digitalearlychildhoodeducator.