School of Education

UKZN Academic Examines Inclusive Learning Environments in Early Childhood Care and Education

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Dr Ashnie Mahadew.
Dr Ashnie Mahadew.

Academic within the School of Education, Dr Ashnie Mahadew graduated with her PhD in Education for research that explored an inclusive learning environment in early childhood care and education (ECCE).

The study was specifically centered on the care and education of children aged four years and younger. This was, for them, before formal schooling began.

The research enabled the voices of a group of teachers and teacher trainers working in this sector of education to be heard. Participants in the study used participatory action learning and research to design a handbook on inclusion for teachers in the sector. Using photovoice from participants, the handbook offers useful information on the creation of an inclusive learning environment.

With her thesis, Mahadew contributes to improving the inclusive practice of ECCE teachers and teacher trainers. Underpinned by critical pedagogy, the study reveals that inclusion is an inner journey that begins within teachers by revisiting false beliefs enmeshed unknowingly in the hidden curriculum.

Mahadew’s greatest challenge was striking a balance between family responsibilities, work, and her studies. ‘Studying and working through the pandemic required a quick adjustment to new ways of teaching and researching,’ she said.

She advises other students to strive for balance during their studies: ‘Maintain a regular exercise regime and healthy eating plan as exercise can serve as a useful distraction from your research, allowing you to find some respite from all your stress and anxiety.’

She is also grateful to her family, friends and supervisor, Professor Dipane Hlalele.

Before joining UKZN, Mahadew taught within the foundation phase for 20 years. Currently, she teaches Language and Literacy to students studying for their Bachelor of Education. She is also part of a UKZN team involved in the design of a degree programme for ECCE initial teacher education. qualifications. She is passionate about professionalizing ECCE and values the importance of inclusion for enhancing teachers’ situational awareness.

Mahadew plans to contribute toward research that advances inclusion in early childhood teacher education programmes.

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