Winning the Pacific Early Childhood Education Research Association conference is good for Victoria University and good for early childhood education. New Zealand will welcome up to 500 early childhood scholars from the Asia Pacific region in 2020, strengthening its role as a research leader in early childhood studies.

The Pacific Early Childhood Education Research Association’s (PECERA) 21st annual conference will take place in July 2020 at Wellington’s Victoria University, home of the Institute for Early Childhood Studies, a leading research group for early childhood scholars in New Zealand. The programme will be themed ‘Visionary navigators: Advocating for children, families and early childhood education’.

The conference win follows a successful bid by Victoria University, Tourism New Zealand and the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA). Dr Sue Cherrington, Associate Dean (Academic), Associate Professor Jenny Ritchie, and Dr Mere Skerrett from Victoria University’s School of Education were integral to the bid.

“The last time PECERA was hosted in New Zealand was 2001, it's been a long time since we held it here,” Dr Cherrington says. “New Zealand has a good, very innovative early childhood curriculum, and relatively high levels of qualified teachers and of government support in international terms. Victoria has a very strong early childhood team here with regard to the breadth and depth of our research. We were approached by Tourism New Zealand about bidding for the event and we talked about it and decided it was a good opportunity to demonstrate our strength and take the lead in this area in bringing an international conference to New Zealand.”

Hosting the event brings multiple benefits, she notes: “The current membership of the Association is predominantly Asian countries on the Pacific rim. In New Zealand, we have a much stronger connection to the Pacific, so as hosts it’s an opportunity for us to put forward our innovations and demonstrate our Pacific-based research. We see the potential to draw on our research strengths to help shape the Association going forward.

“This conference will also help us strengthen our research links with Asia-Pacific rim countries such as China, Korea, Malaysia and Japan. Hosting this conference presents an opportunity to develop new and exciting research collaborations,” she says. “It is one of those events where lots of networking goes on. As an example, I met people at the conference two years ago and as a result I’ve just been to Japan to present information. There are lots of opportunities to establish new contacts.”

Dr Cherrington is optimistic that there will be more New Zealand and Australian attendance, too, given the location. “It gives those in our sector relatively inexpensive access to an international research conference.”
She adds: “As well as raising the profile of the work done at Victoria, hosting the conference here, in the capital city, will make it more visible to those in the education agencies in Wellington and we will be making sure they are invited. It’s good for the university and it’s good for early childhood education.”

The win was more than two years in the making, and Cherrington says she was impressed by the support of Tourism New Zealand’s Conference Assistance Programme (CAP) throughout the process. “Tourism New Zealand was absolutely amazing. They paid for a professional conference organiser to do a feasibility study for us as we started thinking about budgets and what would be possible. They helped with putting the bid together, and the booklet and powerpoint presentation were just outstanding. We had organised letters of support from the Dean of Education and the University’s Provost, but WREDA and TNZ got letters from the Mayor and the Minister of Education. The PECERA Governing Board were very impressed with the bid. Yes, they were interested in the programme and the capability of the university to host the event, but the quality of the documentation also gave them the security that it would be professionally run and that we had good support behind us to deliver the programme to a high standard. 

“The Conference Assistance Programme also funded my airfare and accommodation to present the bid at the 2017 conference in the Philippines. We get a certain amount of funding for conferences from the University but it only goes so far, so this was extremely helpful.

“Tourism New Zealand has been very available. We will be putting together flyers for the next PECERA conference to start attracting interest ahead of 2020. It's not just about winning the conference, that support is ongoing. It has been fantastic, I couldn't ask for more.”