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Early Childhood Education Rights, Research and Policy

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1 Early Childhood Education Rights, Research and Policy
Anne B. Smith NZ-UK Link Foundation Visiting Professor University of Otago

2 Early Childhood Education Rights, Research and Policy
Anne B. Smith NZ-UK Link Foundation Visiting Professor University of Otago

3 Definition and Value Rights are claims that are justifiable on legal or moral grounds (James & James, 2008) They provide rights holders with respect and are a resource for child advocates Rights-holders can exercise agency – agents make decisions, negotiate with others, change things (Freeman, 2011)

4 Respect for children “Not only is the Convention a nearly universally adopted expression of respect for children as persons, but it is also unparalleled in its conceptual breadth. No other human-rights treaty directly touches on so many domains of life”. (Melton, 2005, p. 648).

5 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
Children should have be provided with education that helps them meet their potential - ‘the development of the child’s personality, talents and abilities‘(29) Children should be protected from harmful, neglectful or abusive treatment (19) There should be no discrimination on grounds of gender, SES ethnicity, disability (2) Children have a right to survival and development (6) Children should have a say in their own lives, and access to information (12 and 13)

6 Challenging Dominant Constructions
Constructing children entirely as dependents denies them the chance to act for themselves; Children are resourceful as well as vulnerable; Position children as authoritative knowers  transfer of learning, persistence, engagement (Carr, Smith, et al, 2010 Learning in the Making).

7 New Lens on Childhood FROM
Passive recipient of adults’ teaching, protection and care TO Children as social actors and active participants in constructing their own lives In this paper we will discuss how the new orientation towards constructing childhood arising out of children’s rights discourse, sociology of childhood and sociocultural theory, is developing coming to be known as CHILDHOOD STUDIES. Children have traditionally lacked voice and visibility, but slowly a recognition of children’s role as social actors who are active co-constructors of meaning and “experts” on childhood is emerging. Powerful normative models have in the past shaped our assumptions about what children can and cannot do, and many of these greatly underestimate children’s competence. Children have been the invisible and mute objects of concern, and have not been understood as agents who have a point of view about the world. Like women twenty or thirty years ago, they are considered weak, vulnerable, in need of protection, and lacking in control over what happens to them. How these ideas and accompanying research are beginning to inform policy and practice in government planning for children, early childhood education and family law, in New Zealand.

8 Theoretical Perspectives
Move from Developmental Psychology Normative approach Children as vulnerable objects of concern Universalizing claims Emergence of interdisciplinary field of Childhood Studies Links with sociocultural theory – multiple cultural pathways to learning, context of social relationships and interactions, guided participation towards agency

9 ECE Policy in NZ – an integrated system of education and care a bicultural, holistic, socioculturally-oriented curriculum (Te Whāriki); innovative assessment (Learning Stories) a strategic plan (Ngā Huarahi Arataki) – improving participation and quality the 20 hours ECE for 3 and 4 year-olds policy

10 1. Integration Division of preschool (education for middle-class children)/childcare (care for children whose parents ‘had to’ work) Integration of ECE under Education Dept Integrated 3 year training (benchmark) Unified funding and regulatory framework

11 Role of Research and Rights
Right of child to a quality ECE regardless of age, mother’s work status, or hours Visits by Urie Bronfenbrenner, Bettye Caldwell (developmental psych but sociocultural) US longitudinal studies (Perry, Abecedarian, Syracuse studies) Shaped arguments that ECE had a lasting effect on child’s well-being and was a useful investment.

12 2. Curriculum and Assessment in ECE
Te Whāriki (Early Childhood Curriculum) is oriented towards encouraging autonomy, exploration, commitment and communication Emphasis on learning rather than performance - meaningful problem solving rather than skills Children are valued as active learners who choose, plan and challenge A climate of reciprocity and ‘listening’ to children - how their feelings, curiosity and interest are engaged

13 Assessment: Learning Stories
Formative assessment - ethnographic, interpretive and narrative methods A holistic transactional model - encouraging children to become competent and confident learners Focusing on dispositions Inclusion of parents’ and children’s voices

14 Including the Child’s Voice
“ Assessments that include the “child’s voice” or children making a contribution to their assessments encourage an orientation towards learning goals…. Teachers who pay careful attention to children’s voices gain windows into their world views and assumptions”. (Carr, et al. 2005, p. 3, p. 4)


16 Outcomes of This Approach
Teachers have positive belief in children’s competence More involvement and support from families Teachers grow in confidence and willingness to try out new things Children ‘own’ their own learning “Everyone waits with bated breath as they hear stories they have heard so many times before but never lose interest in hearing again” (Carr et al, 2004

17 Role of Research and Rights
Rights incorporated into philosophy: – voice, agency, participation; Informed by ecological and sociocultural research (Bronfenbrenner, Bruner, Donaldson); Warm engaging relationships (Howes & Droege,1993; Greenberg, 1992) – not formal instruction; Qualitative research contributed to resource development (Podmore, Carr), evaluation projects looked at outcomes (Linda Mitchell).

18 3. Early Childhood Strategic Plan
Meade Working Party (2000) recommended; Universal entitlement to free, high quality ECE Review of regulatory and funding systems Widespread consultation with EC sector Government response - Pathways to the Future: Ngã Huarahi Arataki

19 Three Goals Increasing participation in quality ECE services;
Improving quality of ECE services; Promoting collaborative relationships.

20 Key changes Dramatic increase in funding (doubled since 2007 and trebled since 2004); Moves to a qualified EC workforce (currently 75.3%); By % will be registered teachers By % will be registered teachers Review of funding and regulations Better ratios and group sizes 2004 government promised 20 hours of free ECE for all 3-4 year-olds

21 Role of Research and Rights
Rights philosophy incorporated in SP Working Party Report – right of every child to free high quality ECE; Literature review on Effects of ECE (Smith et al, 2000) commissioned by MoE – informed TW; NZ longitudinal study Competent Children Competent Learners.

22 Outcomes of Policies High participation rates in ECE – from 92% in 2002 to 95% in 2012, 90.9% for Māori, 86.8% for Pasifika; Shift to longer hours – 40% enrolled for 20 hours or more; 2008 UNICEF report – NZ 6th highest in OECD for participation rates; Improvements in quality (Mitchell, 2011), NZ rated 9th out of 45 countries for affordability.

23 A Side Effect of Policies
Rapid expansion of private-for-profit centres (identical entitlement to funding); Growth of 47% private services (2007 to 2011), compared to 2.8% in community sector; Profits to owners or to shareholders; Poorer salaries, working conditions, services located in higher income areas.

24 Fiscal Restraint National government comes to power in economic downturn 2008, they describe ‘blow out’ in EC funding; Immediate cuts to: Professional development Centres of Innovation Goal of 100% qualified teachers Improvements in ratios.

25 Preschool costs to rise
‘Early Childhood Education Being Targeted by National For Funding Cuts’ 22/4/10 BUDGET: 20th May 2010 Budget a bitter blow for quality “Black Budget” for Early Childhood Education Childcare funding slashed Early childhood educators devastated Preschool costs to rise ECE budget brutal blow to children and families Budget launches attack on quality teaching for youngest learners


27 Qualification and quality divides
It is a matter of personal belief as to whether a high proportion of all centre staff should be trained teachers. John Key, Prime Minister, 2010 It is a matter of an informed and evidence-based educational decision. These questions would never be raised about adults who teach 5-6 (or older) year-olds in school…. We had hoped that 100% qualified teachers for all children in EC made us different from other countries ….and would contribute to the government’s aim of equitable and quality outcomes for children from all backgrounds. Margaret Carr and Linda Mitchell, 2010. NZ has found itself going Back to the qualification debate again that we thought had been rested and won a decade ago.

28 Research evidence? There is no research evidence that centres with 100% qualified teachers are better than with 80% Anne Tolley, Minister of Education, 2010 Such research would be hard to do. There are few countries that employ 100% qualified ECE teachers. There isn’t any research either which shows that 100% qualified staff isn’t better than 80% Anne Smith, 2010 A lot of countries have two tiers of staff in ECE – nursery nurses and nursery teachers and we were saying 100% teachers.

29 Recent Research (Meade et al, 2012)
To compare the quality of centres with 100% qualified staff and centres with 80% qualified staff. 100% qualified centres More open-ended questions; More engagement in sustained shared thinking; Children more independent and more focused.

30 Directions for change 2002-2012
The different political positions are evident the ECE policy blueprints developed: Labour: Quality participation for all children 100% Qualified teachers for all children Government funding recognition of costs of quality National: Containing the cost Value for money Accountability Targeting those children not participating 2011 Labour: investment in inputs National: accounting for outputs

31 Compulsory ECE for children of beneficiaries
All beneficiary parents will be required to send their children to for at least 15 hours a week from age three - a way to ensure children of beneficiaries "get the best possible start in life". flexibility for social sector agency staff to work with these parents to make suitable arrangements. a graduated sanction system where parents would receive reminders of their obligations before losing half of benefits. A lot of countries have two tiers of staff in ECE – nursery nurses and nursery teachers and we were saying 100% teachers.

32 Conclusions A children’s rights perspective and UNCRC are important tools for change; Including children’s voice builds better policies and practices; Research is most helpful if there is political will; Alliances between advocates for children and researchers essential. The three examples I have discussed, illustrate changes in approach to children’s issues in the public arena. Tentatively these three examples of New Zealand’s successes in improving children’s well-being, can be linked to the rethinking of childhood which I have outlined in this chapter. The proviso is, however, that continuing resources, and training will need to be provided to enable effective implementation of these enlightened policies and practices for children. Policies for children are vulnerable to other demands on the national purse and do not necessarily bring votes. NZ is a small country which may facilitate an ongoing dialogue between researchers in universities (such as the Children’s Issues Centre), NGOs, the professional community and government. It has certainly been most rewarding for researchers like those at the Children’s Issues Centre to see their research findings being reflected in changes to government policies. Just as we have learned greatly from innovations in other countries (especially Scandinavia) concerning policy for children, I hope that we are able to provide useful models in the development of child advocacy. Our experience has shown that a key strategy is for researchers to be aware of the policy and practice issues concerning children, to ensure that our research addresses these issues, and that we disseminate our findings and establish dialogue with policy makers.

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