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Volume 11 Number 2
©The Author(s) 2009

Letter from the Editor: Expanding International Perspectives

This issue of Early Childhood Research & Practice (ECRP) marks the beginning of our second decade of being the only peer-reviewed journal in our field that is accessible via the Internet without cost. We are especially pleased to announce that it is not just the only one available in both English and Spanish, but in September 2009, ECRP also became available in Chinese, thanks to the generous support of the Yew Chung Education Foundation of Hong Kong. Our Chinese colleagues have translated the spring 2008 issue, and subsequent Chinese editions will be uploaded as they are completed. 

In ECRP’s premier issue in spring 1999, I shared some of my observations about early care and education around the world in an article titled “International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education: Lessons from My Travels.” By that time, 25 years had passed since my first overseas assignment (to Barbados) in 1974. During the following years, I also worked with educators and scholars in India, China, Greece, Trinidad and Tobago, and many other countries.

My editorial comments in the first issue focused on “lessons” regarding seven concerns that piqued my curiosity at the time. These concerns were what it feels like to be a teacher in particular settings, some of the similarities between the experiences of early childhood teachers in the United States and in other countries, the problems inherent in making cross-cultural comparisons of such things as reading achievement or classroom atmosphere, the dissemination and spread of “innovative” ideas across national boundaries, the existence of issues that seemed to be of interest only to educators in the United States, a self-deprecating tendency of Americans regarding their own cultural practices (including schooling), and the leadership that the United States has played in awareness and action related to anti-bias and multicultural awareness.

Were I to write another report about what I have learned on my extensive travels and work with our colleagues in 54 countries, I believe the same issues would still be of concern, although my hypotheses about how to explain them may or may not have shifted. In August, for example, I spent 3 days at a large conference in Medellin, Colombia, where the topics of presentations and conversation (mostly in Spanish!) included training teachers to teach a wide variety of subjects at all age levels and in the wide range of environmental conditions throughout Central and South America. Shortly after returning home, some colleagues and I visited Indianapolis, Indiana, to see the traveling exhibit on early education from Reggio Emilia, Italy. The Reggio Emilia approach continues to inspire educators around the world, even as it undergoes its own metamorphoses in Italy in response to such factors as an influx of immigrants who do not speak Italian and are new to their culture.

But my perspectives on early childhood issues of international importance have also been influenced over the years by contributions to the pages of ECRP by colleagues studying in such places as Sweden, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, and the United Kingdom. During the journal’s first decade, we have published more than 25 articles by scholars and educators from outside the United States. Topics have included national curricula in Norway and Sweden, the role of religious beliefs in Japanese early childhood programs, and an approach to professional development in Australia, among many others. We have published reports of Project Approach work from Canada and Mexico as well as the United States. This current issue (fall 2009) includes an article by an Israeli scholar; another, co-authored by a visiting Brazilian scholar; and yet another by a parent-researcher in the United States investigating aspects of language development of her own daughter, who speaks both English and Japanese. An interview with Dr. Alice Sterling Honig includes insights from her work in many countries as well as the United States. Additional articles about media and young children, children’s storytelling, and infant-toddler care, while focused on the United States, are likely to be relevant for practitioners and researchers around the world.

The increasingly global reach of ECRP brings to mind the enriching experience of attending another one of the World Forum on Early Care and Education gatherings in Belfast last June. This biannual get-together of early childhood colleagues from around the world was once more an occasion for close and meaningful interaction about our common as well as uncommon predicaments and concerns. Thanks to the creative and insightful leadership of Roger and Bonnie Neugebauer of Child Care Exchange and their staff, the event is structured expressly so as to encourage ample informal contact among participants throughout the Forum conference. About half of the 600 participants were also presenters on a very wide range of topics, for example, brain research, international peace activities, technology, children’s rights, teacher education, bi-cultural issues, inclusion, music, and many more topics of international significance for those of us concerned with the lives and development of young children. To see some of this year's Forum presentations or to find out when and where the next Forum will take place, check their Web site in the next few months (http://www.worldforumfoundation.org).

We at ECRP are committed to continuing to provide a place where scholars and practitioners can be informed by each other’s work. We plan to strengthen that commitment to “reach” around the world, engaging an international readership concerned about the education and well-being of all young children.

Lilian G. Katz, Editor

With the assistance of Jean Mendoza, Associate Editor