Providing culturally competent care in
early childhood services in New Zealand
Part 2 : Developing Dialogue
The first paper in this series Providing culturally competent care in early childhood services in
New Zealand - Part 1: Considering culture examined some current theory on ‘culture’, some of
the concepts underlying successful inter-cultural communication, and their implications for early
childhood education practitioners. The paper concluded with a call for mainstream early
childhood practitioners to ensure that families from different cultures understand the premises
upon which early childhood education programmes in New Zealand are based, by consciously
‘unpacking’ underlying theories and philosophies for families.
Developing good relationships with parents and families so that practitioners can begin to engage
in meaningful dialogue with parents is the most successful way for teachers to begin to ‘unpack’
the early childhood education programme for parents. Dialogue enables practitioners to discover
the beliefs and experiences that parents and children from different cultural backgrounds bring to
their new experiences with early childhood programmes in New Zealand.
This paper examines ways in which teachers can engage and develop meaningful dialogue with
parents from diverse cultures. It presents ideas for developing meaningful dialogue by drawing
from my own teaching experiences, both as teacher and early childhood professional
development facilitator, the writings and experiences of other early childhood educators working
in diverse communities, and interviews with parents themselves.
Janet Gonzalez-Mena in her book Multicultural issues in child care states, ‘It’s good for children
to receive culturally competent care that is sensitive and has a global, multiethnic view’ (2001,
p17). An experienced childcare provider and an advocate for increased awareness of multi-
cultural issues in early childhood education services, Gonzalez-Mena describes the essential