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My Early Childhood Degree at Maynooth University

By: SYLWIA O’ROURKE

Wednesday 15 April 2020

With all the recent uncertainty around us, many people are pausing to ponder about what their priorities are? What would they like their futures to be like? Prompted by the pandemic (and a request from my former lecturer), I began to consider some of these questions and how they relate to my past experiences. The most significant one by far must be graduating from Maynooth University with an Honours Degree in Early Childhood Teaching and Learning. Oh boy, was it a journey!

If anyone told me back in 2016, that in the next few years I would knock out some tunes on a Shruti box, rub shoulders with Geraldine French, Noirin Hayes or Minister McHugh or just barely escape death from a pivot door of the frequently visited library coffee shop, I would not have believed it! Yet, all of it materialised, along with some laborious study time of course. Moreover, I would risk my life again for one more cup of that take-away coffee, which no doubt kept me alert, perhaps even alive, every Tuesday (year 1 and 2) and Thursday (year 3) evening for three full years (plus one Saturday per month and two block weeks per year).

I recall that time with great fondness, although do not be lulled into a false sense of security. This intense part-time degree offers a balanced blend of theory and practice, delivered through eight modules per academic year. The course content is designed to cover a wide range of child development philosophies, traditional and modern, but also places value on personal and professional growth. Reflective practice and work experience are built-in throughout the duration of the programme to ensure that philosophical concepts are examined, tested in real-life and eventually-fully comprehended. The ethos of Froebel (the patron of the department) and Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework, is embedded into the foundations of this degree, with concepts such as play, quality interactions, creativity and active, hands-on learning for young children, at its core.

Lecturers are knowledgeable (on theory and practice), but above all approachable, passionate and creative. They adapt to the group dynamics, encourage freedom of speech and difference of opinion. They create an environment where it is safe to share professional issues and support one another. I found that aspect particularly helpful, especially with the austerity the sector is facing in the recent times. With multiple requirements, even more questions and very little support, it is easy to feel powerless and isolated. The degree places emphasis on our role as future advocates and active members of the early years sector, with a collective voice. It installs confidence and provides students with powerful tools like knowledge and articulation.

I would recommend this part-time degree to any of you without an inch of hesitation. Whether you are a part of the Early Years community or not, there is something to be gained from it (the diverse backgrounds of participants add value to the rich debates pursued during class). Some of the many universal topics explored are relationship dynamics, parenting issues or learning styles. To add weight to my statements, I would like to conclude with a decision of pursuing a postgraduate Masters programme in the upcoming year, undoubtedly in Maynooth University. They certainly have done enough to convince me. If you are thinking about it, their extended application deadline is  May 1, 2020 - 5.15pm (apply through ww.cao.ie)!

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