MAPECE, the acronym for the Association of Early Childhood Educators, Malaysia, was established in September 2005. The establishment of this Association was to call upon the society in Malaysia to acknowledge the importance of early childhood education and to accord due recognition of those who perform the crucial task of laying the foundation of the child’s development. Neuroscientists have underscored what psychologists have known for a very long time – the importance of the early years of a person’s life. “The formative years” was coined by psychologists to describe these early years.
Secondly, the founding of this Association was to urge child care providers and preschool teachers to think of themselves as professionals and, as professionals they have to be knowledgeable, well trained, and effective, and to strive to improve themselves.
There is another need to set up a body to acknowledge the critical role of early childhood educators. Until today, many parents, members in society and even child care providers and preschool teachers consider care providers as child minders and preschool teachers as jobs for secondary school dropouts. Thus, they do require academic training and tertiary education is not for them in spite of repeated call of childhood advocates for diploma in early childhood education as the minimum qualification.
The watershed in the professionalism in early childhood education occurred in 1997 when the University of Malaya took the bold step to offer the Bachelor Degree in Early Childhood Education – the first of its kind in Malaysia. The climax of the pursuit for recognition of professionalism in early childhood education was reached in 2003 when the Ministry of Education agreed that graduates in early childhood education teaching Ministry of Education’s preschools be accorded graduate salary. This recognition spurred a group of early childhood advocates and early childhood education graduates came together to set up MAPECE.