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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET MOVING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION FORWARD  |   5 preparation, practice, and accountability. Beyond providing for consistently compe- tent practice, the resultant system would form the nucleus around which delivery, policy, and financing systems should be adjusted, developed, and coordinated. 10 Tying infrastructure development to its formation as a professional field of practice can pro- vide the unifying, systemic, occupational structure needed by ECE to ratchet up the quality, effectiveness, and consistency of its practices across early learning settings. Rethinking ECE as cohesive systems joined together by common purpose, a special- ized knowledge base, required practice standards, and agreed-upon expectations for practitioners represents a paradigm shift. ECE would become a field of practice that accepts responsibility for realizing desired results for children. Among the benefits is establishing the accountability necessary for partnering with policy makers and others to increase field-wide capacity, which will enable the field’s societal contribu- tions to become more widely available. Embracing the merit of structuring ECE as a professional field of practice can re- define the field’s trajectory, unleash its potential, and raise its esteem in the public’s eyes. Although attending to children’s and families’ current early learning needs must remain part of our commitment to them in the present, solutions to these problems are inadequate to society’s long- The time has come term need for a competent field of practice capable of promot- for envisioning an ing every child’s early learning and development. The time has alternative future for ECE. come for envisioning an alternative future for ECE as a field of practice and determining how it will be achieved. This is a daring proposal, one whose fulfillment asks the ECE field to mobilize its collective will to • take charge of change; • become a self-governing, clearly delineated field of practice bound by com- mon purpose and destiny; and • replace its fragmented configuration with an occupational structure re- sponsive to society’s need for children who are capable of making the most of their learning potential. Professions offer a field-unifying strategy designed to bring an occupation’s mem- bers together around common purpose, collective expertise, and who is served. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL