Q&A with Parisa – Men in early childhood education

Parisa Soleimani Tadi is an early childhood education researcher at UC whose professional research in Early Childhood focuses on connecting men with young children’s early education.


What is your specialist research area?   I’ve started my professional research in Early Childhood Education. It was right after my son was born, about eight years ago when I did my Masters in Early Childhood in one of the top universities in Iran. I am currently doing my PhD in early Childhood Education at UC where I was offered a UC Doctoral Scholarship. I am at the final stage of writing my thesis and hoping to submit my thesis soon. In addition to my PhD program, I am an ECE teacher and a mum! My research highlights voices regarding fathers’ participation in New Zealand’s childcare centers. I am devoted to find ways to have more male figures in the ECE as kindergartens are believed to be female dominated areas.

For my research, I believe my background in science and education has helped me to have a good insight to develop a suitable questionnaire and conduct interviews with teachers and fathers to tap more into their voices and insights to find appropriate ways to make ECE centers more welcoming for males and/or to make male figures more comfortable in early years centers. Based on these interviews, I developed a model and experimented this model to ensure that my proposed solution to increase fathers’ participation in ECE is practical.
What opportunities are available to you at UC to carry out your research?   The only word that I can say is “MOTIVATION”. UC offered me the UC Doctoral Scholarship which a top scholarship for PhD programmes and is very competitive. Being honored with such high recognition, I became even more enthused to focus on my study. It also provided a very good financial support to continue high quality research with very little economical concerns.

Being part of the UC, I am enjoying a world-class research facility with good supervisors who are always there to clear my thoughts, an excellent library facility with fabulous national and international resources and fantastic librarians who are always wearing welcoming smiles.

The College also provides some amount of funds for research costs that can be spent on what I need for my project as well as conference funds which encourages me to present my ideas nationally and internationally.

What is the greatest challenge you are facing in your research right now? My PhD journey, like all other aspects of life, is like a roller coaster; in fact one of the scariest ones!  Lucky me, I could pass all the ups and downs which has put me in a safe ending track right now! One of my dearest supervisors passed away  and my other supervisor retired. It was really scary for me but luckily the school has replaced my supervisors and I could work with a new fantastic team. This unfortunate event has also led to better independence and I am now in a better space research wise. My biggest challenge at the moment is thesis writing. Writing is always hard and when you are a second language writer, it is even harder but, I am sure I can do it very well and accomplish my goals as planned. Thank to my supervisors who help me clear my written thoughts and always provide me feedback on my drafts.

What have been some of the successes or ‘epiphanies’ in your research?When my son was born about eight years ago, it coincided with my Master’s program in early childhood education. I noticed that the role of families should not be neglected in early year’s education. Working in Iran my home country, Australia where I used to work, in New Zealand, and reading research papers and government documents on Te Whāriki , it was like eureka when I came to the realization that no matter where in the world we live, the East or the West, early years’ education is female dominant. Statistics in New Zealand show two % male teacher participation. It was really disappointing to see that society is depriving young children from male role models in their education. Hence I wanted to find out why this is the case and how we can connect males with young children’s early education.
What do you enjoy best about the UC community?   The College of Education, Health and Human Development is separated from UC’s main campus. The College is a wide area with smaller number of students and staff which makes it like a home environment with really supporting people around. This supportive community offers collegial collaboration and fun environment with monthly morning tea and end of year barbecue event. There are a lot of focused research groups where students can get involved in scholar meetings to expand their expertise, and a lot of high profile international visitors who we can talk to and extend our future collaboration. The College has a very good library, theater halls and two cafes. This very friendly community is nice with familiar and smiley faces around! My office is based on Wheki building with a fantastic view over a very old tree; and of course is my second home; my sweet home!

There is a very good green field between the college campus and the main campus. You can end up at the main campus which is a vibrant campus within a walking distance. The main campus also offers free consultations on language and writing skills, presentations, as well as a health center plus a lot more that makes life really easy.
Have you had any opportunities to work across disciplines at UC?   Yes, and it was a very good opportunity for me indeed! While doing my PhD, I had the opportunity to work with other research groups and helped them collect data. I had the chance to test children at primary school grades which helped me understand other disciplines too. This experience helped me a lot when I was developing the program for my own PhD research to work in an interdisciplinary field.

I was invited to the UC PhD programme review in 2015 as a nominee from the College of Education. We were a group of 14 PhD candidates across UC. We met the review panel, discussed and recommended some points to improvise implementation of doctoral programmes.
What opportunities do you have to connect with other students at UC with your research?    Being in touch with other nationalities is one my best experiences at UC. I was a member of Educational Postgrad Committee (EPGCOM), the committee supporting all College of Ed postgraduate students (PhD and Masters). I was also invited to launch the Iranian Student Association initiated by the Civil Engineering Department. I helped the association in my role as a treasurer at the beginning, and now I am the president of this association.

Working with other students at UC from various disciplines and nationalities has helped me to develop skills needed to analyse and help address needs of current students and help new students settle better when they arrive. We offer various activities, gatherings, fund activities and celebrate some national and international events. I should thank  UC again for supporting our group financially without which we couldn’t be as successful as we are now.