Early Childhood Australia (ECA) established the code of ethics for Australian early childhood professionals. The code of ethics incorporates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1991) principles and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).
It is designed specifically for early childhood education and care. The current pedagogical research and practice are reflected in the ECA Code of Ethics. Professionals who work with or for children and families in early childhood settings can use this framework to reflect on their ethical responsibilities.
The Code of Ethics places a high priority on the protection and well-being of children. Professional responsibility demands speaking out when unethical practices occur. A person who is ethical thinks deeply about everyday actions and decisions whether individually or collectively.
Having professional accountability is essential for childhood professionals due to their unique position of trust and influence over children, families, colleagues, and the community.
Early childhood professionals face complex issues in their work and the code of ethics is not a prescriptive solution to address all these. Ultimately, it provides a basis for critical reflection, guidelines for professional behaviour, and principles for guiding individuals and groups in their decision-making.
ECA Code of ethics core principles
The code of ethics is a set of statements designed to lay down the appropriate and expected behaviour among early childhood professionals.
Based on the values of the profession, the core principles are derived and decisions regarding ethical responsibilities are guided by them. In order to ensure that these principles are adhered to, everyone must be committed to preserving and promoting the rights and dignity of children, families, colleagues and communities.
Each child has unique interests and strengths and the capacity to contribute to their communities. Here are the core principles of the code of ethics:
- Children are citizens from birth with civil, cultural, linguistic, social, and economic rights.
- Effective learning and teaching are characterised by professional decisions based on specialised knowledge and multiple perspectives.
- Partnerships with families and communities support shared responsibility for children’s learning, development, and wellbeing.
- Democratic, fair, and inclusive practices promote equity and a strong sense of belonging.
- Respectful, responsive and reciprocal relationships are central to children’s education and care.
- Play and leisure are essential for children’s learning, development and wellbeing.
- Research, inquiry and practice-based evidence inform quality education and care.
Code of Ethics Commitments to Action
In relation to CHILDREN, the childcare professional will…
- act in the best interests of all children
- create and maintain safe, healthy, inclusive environments that support children’s agency and enhance their learning
- provide a meaningful curriculum to enrich children’s learning, balancing child and educator-initiated experiences
- understand and be able to explain to others how play and leisure enhance children’s learning, development and wellbeing
- ensure childhood is a time for being in the here and now and not solely about preparation for the future
- collaborate with children as global citizens in learning about shared responsibilities to the environment and humanity
- value the relationship between children and their families and enhance these relationships through their practice
- ensure that children are not discriminated against on the basis of gender, sexuality, age, ability, economic status, family structure, lifestyle, ethnicity, religion, language, culture, or national origin
- negotiate children’s participation in research, by taking into account their safety, privacy, levels of fatigue and interest
- respect children as capable learners by including their perspectives in teaching, learning and assessment
- safeguard the security of information and documentation about children, particularly when shared on digital platforms.
In relation to COLLEAGUES, the childcare professional will..
- encourage others to adopt and act in accordance with this Code, and take action in the presence of unethical behaviours
- build a spirit of collegiality and professionalism through collaborative relationships based on trust, respect and honesty
- acknowledge and support the diverse strengths and experiences of colleagues in order to build shared professional knowledge, understanding and skills
- use constructive processes to address differences of opinion in order to negotiate shared perspectives and actions
- participate in a ‘lively culture of professional inquiry’ to support continuous improvement
- implement strategies that support and mentor colleagues to make positive contributions to the profession
- maintain ethical relationships in online interactions.
In relation to FAMILIES, the childcare professional will…
- support families as children’s first and most important teachers and respect their right to make decisions about their children
- listen to and learn with families and engage in shared decision-making, planning and assessment practices in relation to children’s learning, development and wellbeing
- develop respectful relationships based on open communication with the aim of encouraging families’ engagement and building a strong sense of belonging
- learn about, respect and respond to the uniqueness of each family, their circumstances, culture, family structure, customs, language, beliefs and kinship systems
- respect families’ right to privacy and maintain confidentiality.
In relation to the PROFESSION, the childcare professional will…
- base work on research, theories, content knowledge, practice evidence and understanding of the children and families with whom I work
- take responsibility for articulating professional values, knowledge and practice and the positive contribution the profession makes to society
- engage in critical reflection, ongoing professional learning and support research that builds knowledge and that of the profession
- work within the scope of the professional role and avoid misrepresentation of professional competence and qualifications
- encourage qualities and practices of ethical leadership within the profession
- model quality practice and provide constructive feedback and assessment for students as aspiring professionals
- mentor new graduates by supporting their induction into the profession
- advocate for the profession and the provision of quality education and care
In relation to the COMMUNITY and SOCIETY, the childcare professional will…
- learn about local community contexts and aspirations in order to create responsive programs to enhance children’s learning, development and wellbeing
- collaborate with people, services and agencies to develop shared understandings and actions that support children and families use
- research and practice-based evidence to advocate for a society where all children have access to quality education and care
- promote the value of children’s contribution as citizens to the development of strong communities
- work to promote increased appreciation of the importance of childhood including how children learn and develop, in order to inform programs and systems of assessment that benefit children
- advocate for the development and implementation of laws and policies that promote the rights and best interests of children and families.