Concordia PhD grad wins a 2020 Rhedding-Jones Outstanding Dissertation Award
In the field of early childhood education, universal prescriptions that can be applied uniformly across all cultures are increasingly being challenged.
“Having worked with Indigenous communities in Colombia, I felt that there was a need for more culturally sensitive programs for young Indigenous children,” says Luz Marina Hoyos Vivas (PhD 21).
“The existing services are mainly based on Westernized developmental psychology and early childhood education and care ‘best practices.’ In Indigenous communities, this can interrupt the transmission of local wisdom and disrupt the existing ways of life as well as cultural and linguistic diversity.”
Hoyos Vivas earned her PhD in Concordia’s Individualized (INDI) program. Her dissertation, “Honouring Cultural Differences in Early Childhood Education and Care: Participatory Research with a Colombian Embera Chamí Indigenous Community,” won a 2020 Rhedding-Jones Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education (RECE) organization.
“I engaged with the Wasiruma, a Colombian Embera Chamí community, to develop early childhood education and care (ECEC) programming that included their local knowledge, language and values,” Hoyos Vivas explains. She spent two years living in a town near the Indigenous reservation and visiting the community for scheduled meetings.
“We used a decolonial conversational research methodology. Through this participatory process, we came up with a pedagogical program based on local traditions, such as respect for Mother Earth, spiritual life, Jaibanismo — local customs based on a form of Shamanism — and the Embera Chamí language.”
The reconceptualist movement in early childhood education seeks to move away from a dominant school of thought that is seen as too rigid and Eurocentric in order to include more diverse cultural, linguistic and ethnic perspectives.
Reconceptualists have introduced alternative theoretical and methodological approaches, and have embraced feminist, postcolonial and postmodern approaches.
“There is no way to find an ECEC practice able to fit all children independently of their culture, language, customs and worldviews,” says Hoyos Vivas, who is Colombian herself.
“My research questions universalist narratives on best practices on ECEC that deny local knowledges, which is a way to continue colonizing people.”
For Hoyos Vivas, the RECE award constitutes an invitation to continue working with Indigenous communities in order to recover and defend local cultures from the uniformity that universalizing education standards might instill.