Dr. Alan Pence

Prof. Alan Pence

UNESCO Tri-Chair in Early Childhood Education, Care and Development (ECD),
Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria, Canada

Professor Emeritus
School of Child and Youth Care
University of Victoria

[email protected]

(1) 250-889-9308 (cell)


Prof. Alan Pence

Brief Background​

Field Background:

Alan Pence’s professional work with children and youth began in 1970 as a teacher at an alternative, inner city high school in the U.S. During that time he became concerned that high school was too late to have a maximally positive impact on a child’s development. That was one of his reasons for helping to establish an early childhood education, care and development (ECD) Centre in 1971. 

During the 1970s Pence: provided direct care for 2 to 4 year olds; established a high school based ECD and student parenting program; providing training for a five-county rural area that included migrant and First Nations programs; and served as a Head Start CDA trainer and a college instructor. In the late 1970s he founded and directed a seven-site, 200-plus children after-school care program while completing his PhD and commencing a shift to academia in 1981.

Research Background:

Prior to 1990 Dr. Pence was primarily involved in Canadian based research addressing the interaction of family, labor force participation, child care, and child development issues. Major projects included the ecologically oriented Victoria, and then the Vancouver, Day Care Research Projects (1981-1990) and the Canadian National Child Care Study, a collaboration with Statistics Canada involving collecting and analyzing data from 24,000 families. Since 1981 Dr. Pence has served as Principal or Co-Principal for over 70 research and development projects from 25-plus funders worth over 14 million dollars.


Dr. Pence is the recipient of the Canadian Bureau for International Education’s Award for Educational Leadership, the University of Victoria’s inaugural Craigdarroch Research Award for Societal Contributions, and the ECD Virtual University (ECDVU) program that he developed (see below) was a finalist for the internationally prestigious WISE Awards for innovation in education.

Current and On-going Work:

In the late 1980s, Dr. Pence’s research interests shifted towards cross-cultural and sociological perspectives on children and their care. He was the Canadian representative to the European-based sociological study of Children in Contemporary Society (1987-90). In 1989 he was invited by a large tribal council in northern Canada to work with them on developing a culturally and community-sensitive approach to post-secondary training in ECE/ECD. That project, the First Nations Partnership Programs (FNPP), and the generative curriculum approach it developed was subsequently invited to partner with nine other Canadian tribal organizations (see www.fnpp.org).

This cross-cultural, partnership work stimulated broader interest in ECD as a key to development in the Majority (Developing) World. In 1994 Dr. Pence was invited by UNICEF to support their efforts to promote the regional capacity for ECD. He organized a series of multi-week ECD Institutes which over time focused primarily on Africa. Planning for one such Seminar, in cooperation with the World Bank, led to the launch of an African ECD Conference series (1999, 2002, 2005, 2009) and funding (in 2000) to develop the Early Childhood Development Virtual University graduate degree program (see www.ecdvu.org). The ECDVU successfully completed: six deliveries in Africa (the two most recent in 2016 and 2018 with an African university partner); two deliveries in the Middle East; and one delivery with Indigenous participants in Canada.

Commencing in 2009, Dr. Pence has worked with senior colleagues in Africa to promote the African Scholarly and Institutional (AS&I) capacity to host SSA-wide and regional workshops in support of African-led research. In 2015 this led to the development of an online Compendium of African Research (ecdafricaresources.org), and a website featuring the Compendium, AS&I, and ECDVU initiatives (www.ecdinafrica.org).

The ecdinafrica website was updated in 2022 and currently serves as the locus for the work of the UNESCO Tri-Chairs for ECD. The Tri-Chairs: Prof. Hasina Banu Ebrahim, University of South Africa (UNISA); Prof. Oumar Barry, Universite’ Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Senegal; and Prof. Emeritus Pence, were joined by Dr. Patrick Makokoro as co-editors for a major volume focused on ECD in Africa (see ‘Sankofa’ below). Dr. Makokoro joins the Tri-Chairs as part of a team focused on promoting capacity development and quality care for Africa’s children.

Publications: Dr. Pence is the author of over 130 journal articles, book chapters and monographs on a range of education, child development, and child and youth care topics. He has edited four special issue journals and edited or authored fifteen books. Two of his most recent books, along with a continuing ‘best seller’, are noted below. A fuller set of publications, organized by themes, can be found at www.alanpence.ca (a number of which can be downloaded).

  • Pence, Makokoro, Ebrahim, & Barry (Eds.). (in press). Sankofa: Appreciating the past in planning the future of early childhood education, care & development in Africa.
  • Pence & Harvell (Eds.). (2019). Pedagogies for diverse contexts.
  • Dahlberg, Moss & Pence (3rd edition, 2013). Beyond quality in early childhood education and care. Beyond Quality is recognized by Routledge as a ‘Classic in Education’ and has been translated into 13 languages.

For more information and to view pdfs of these and other publications, please go to www.alanpence.ca.