DCU launches Ireland’s first dedicated early childhood research centre

New centre for early childhood studies aims to place Ireland at centre of global research map

Professor Mathias Urban, the Desmond Chair in Early Childhood Education.

Professor Mathias Urban, the Desmond Chair in Early Childhood Education.

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A centre for early childhood studies that aims to place Ireland at the centre of the global map of early childhood research has been formally opened at DCU’s Institute of Education.

The Early Childhood Research Centre, the first such dedicated research centre in Ireland, will promote collaboration in research, policy and practice in the field of early childhood studies.

The establishment of the centre follows the appointment last year of Professor Mathias Urban as the Desmond Chair in Early Childhood Education in September 2017. The position was named after businessman and philanthropist Dermot Desmond.

Welcoming the establishment of the research centre and the appointment of Prof Urban, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone said: “Professor Urban is a renowned leader in this field and I commend DCU for making this appointment. I look forward to the valuable work being undertaken here to help further inform policies which will deliver for generations of Irish families to come.”

As part of the launch event, Prof Urban, who will lead the ECRC, delivered the Inaugural Lecture of the Desmond Chair in Early Childhood Education.

In his address, Prof Urban highlighted how important it is to understand to experiences of children and their families.

“Early childhood education is important, beneficial, and, if organised well, highly effective,” he said.

“It is important that we understand what are the real experiences of all children and families in early childhood settings and beyond. We need to address questions such as what experiences do we as society want them to have now and in the future? What kind of services can and should we provide, locally and nationally, to value our collective responsibility to care for and educate young children and who should provide them?”

“Our ambition is to systematically connect the global and local at all levels of the early childhood system: practice, policy and research. We aim to respond to developments in the Irish early childhood education care system and to place Ireland firmly on the global map of international early childhood education research.”

President of DCU, Prof Brian MacCraith described the establishment of the centre as “another important milestone”. He said the centre was “a reflection” of DCU’s commitment to the area of early childhood education.

“As educators, we are fully cognisant of the critical nature of the early childhood years and the impact of experiences during these formative years,” he said.

“Through both the Chair and the Centre, we will endeavour to contribute positively to debate and policy development in this area and crucially provide strategic leadership to adopt a new comprehensive systematic approach to early childhood,” he added.

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