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Values in Early Childhood Development – a venture into the field of childhood aid Johanna Davis DSA Annual Conference 2010: Values, Ethics and Morality.

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Presentation on theme: "Values in Early Childhood Development – a venture into the field of childhood aid Johanna Davis DSA Annual Conference 2010: Values, Ethics and Morality."— Presentation transcript:

1 Values in Early Childhood Development – a venture into the field of childhood aid Johanna Davis DSA Annual Conference 2010: Values, Ethics and Morality

2 Terms Majority World / Minority World Global South / Global North Rich countries / Poor countries...are all binary oppositions but avoid the value judgement of the term developing or even underdeveloped countries

3 Venture into ECD Early Childhood Development refers to any supports and services directed at the health, nutrition, education and well being of children under the age of eight Study: Values in Early Childhood Development – an exploration of the experiences and perceptions of Irish-based development practitioners

4 Viewpoints on Aid and ECD Two-sidedness of all aspects, e.g. Intentions Aims Statistics Outcomes Successes & Failures Best Practice

5 ...on the one hand: 34 000 children and 16 000 adults die everyday of causes related to their poverty (Riddell, 2006) Aid and ECD triy to intervene Early Childhood Interventions have been shown to make a real difference both to the individual children and the societies in which they live (e.g. Nores and Barnett, 2009)

6 ...on the other hand: Aid and ECD are subjected to severe criticisms e.g. - De Sousa Santos (1999): Development concept, based on enlightenment ideal of bringing modernity (equality, peace, dominion over nature) to the world, has failed. - Sachs (1993): development concept strives to help poor countries participate in a race where the US is predetermined to win and which leads in the wrong direction (6 planets needed to offer all countries the exploitation and dumping resources needed to catch up in the race) - Tucker (1999): The myth of development is the process whereby other peoples are dominated and their destinies are shaped according to an essentially Western way of conceiving and perceiving the world - Shrestha (1995): tells the story of bikas (development) in Nepal (in Munck, R. and OHearn, D.: Critical Development Theory)

7 How can helping children be criticised? Nsamenang (2008) looks at childrens involvement in the economic life of the family. He interprets this active participation as a fundamental right of the child under the UN Convention (Article 23, UNHCHR, 1989), but complains that Western policies view this practice from the perspective of child protection and stigmatise it as child labour. Jagwe (2007) researched impact of Childrens rights awareness campaign in Uganda: Children were encouraged to report their parents to the authorities of physical abuse in a community where caning was considered an appropriate disciplinary measure (Pence and Marfo, 2008). Nsamenang (2006) laments the institutionalization, educationalization and economization of childhood (Ibid, p.1) (Western approaches take on superiority over other modes of upbringing)

8 ...continued Burr (2002) showed that what appeared to be a success story for the charity - a street-working child in Vietnam returned to their family - could equally be seen as a violation of the childs UNCRC right to have a voice as to some of the children street life presented educational opportunities, financial independence and a level of social security which were otherwise unattainable for them. Expert approach: sees Africas education as a problem to be fixed or remedied by the experiences of the West. This is based on the globalisation of a culturally specific truth (Moss and Pence, 2008), gives superiority to dominant approaches to the upbringing of children and misses elements of early education which are particular to the worlds local cultures such as sibling rearing, peer-group learning or value-transmission through elders (Omolowa, 2007; Penjore, 2007)

9 The dominant view of Childhood Child -> active social agent / independent citizen child Early education -> progressively increases physical and intellectual capacities through graded materials and activities, ideally in child-centred, group-based institutional care (Bredekamp, 1997; Reynolds, 1996 2nd ed.) Main concern -> health and safety issues, childs growing independence, developmental appropriateness of experiences (Lee and Walsh, 2005). Is this appropriate everywhere in the world? What about values such as kindness, politeness, appreciation of beauty (Ispa, 2002), obedience or loyalty (Penjore, 2007)? Do universal values merit superiority over local values? Does early education have to take place in institutions?

10 The Study (In-depth Interviews with 13 Participants) How do Irish-based development practitioners value aid interventions for young children, based on their perceptions and experiences in the field of Early Childhood Development (ECD)? 1. How are participants motivated to become and stay involved in the field? 2. What are the perceptions of aid on which participants base their work in ECD? 3. How do participants reflect on the experiences gained through their work in ECD? 4. What are the challenges faced by participants in their field of work?

11 Most Significant Findings: most significant experience in the field relates to cultural differences and similarities between donors and recipients. These caused participants to speak very admiringly and appreciatively of their recipients, to put much effort into being culturally sensitive and appropriate in their work, but also to judge many practices of the recipient cultures as negative or inappropriate. very strong concept of best practice, evidenced by their perceptions on how aid should best be given. Issues of empowerment and local ownership were emphasised most strongly, for example through close collaboration with families, communities and governments The third most important factor in the perceptions of study participants relates to the living conditions of aid recipients including severe poverty, health problems and educational under-resourcing. Motivations were not a subject of great significance during the interviews. However, the data suggests that both issues of benevolence and a thirst for adventure have a role to play and that the significant personal benefits experienced through the work are an important, if unexpected, motivator.

12 Findings continued significant impacts from aid, either saving thousands of lives or making a little difference at a time to the lives of individual recipients. ECD not seen as separate entity within aid – in fact the term was seldom used and was even unfamiliar to some participants. Aid criticisms were also of comparatively small significance. Lack of data for both criticisms and for the ECD sector suggest that there is a theory-practice gap in ECD. Participants revealed a great deal of passion for their work and compassion for the people with whom they work

13 Conclusions No overlap between the cultural, historical, power- related etc criticism in the literature and the cultural or critical comments of participants Participants present themselves as critical observers who reflect on their practice and implement improved aid concepts, but show no understanding of absolutist assumptions underlying development or the possibility of political/social/commercial conspiracy. ECD – an emotionally involved topic (for authors & practitioners alike). Possibly because of its association with children, vulnerability, guilt and good and evil forces.

14 ...continued Conflict between postmodern attitude of no ultimate truth and the belief underlying ECD that children deserve certain inalienable rights and standards of living. Critical writers in ECD tended towards notions of conspiracy (development as orchestrated reform driven towards benefits for investors), and participants tended to accept circumstances as given (development as natural evolutionary force). Early childhood is experiencing a surge of political attention and financial investment – an ideal time to engrain diverse notions of childhood into our diverse societies.

15 Recommendations/Implications Increase understanding between theory and practice (practicing authors & writing practitioners). Avoid globalisation of single simplified notion of childhood – learn about alterntives (e.g. collection of childhood experiences by practitioners throughout the world). Universal rights such as the UNCRC may exist, but their interpretation and implementation must not be taken over by universalised assumption but remains the right of the worlds diverse cultures of childhood.

16 Thank you for listening Questions and Comments welcome



19 Solutions? Greany and Elliott (2001) To introduce the idea of AI, they offer the metaphor of a scrap yard which, to an outside observer, is an unsightly mess, a problem which will be difficult to solve. To the owner, however, the yard contains a huge range of spare parts which may be unobtainable elsewhere and will be highly valued by a car mechanic.

20 Interview language Its easier to default to the ones whom you know youll fix. I can think of some families, yes, who just dont get it or just dont buy into the programme if you like. These communities often are very food insecure, ehhm, they would hope that we would right that for them. I dont see them as victims or as helpless, you know they are as strong as we are in many ways. We constantly need to challenge and check and question ourselves and the donors and everybody whos a so-called expert on this. Its not an exact science at all, and nobody has the answer and were all often just scrambling around and trying to apply new theories to this and to that. And often the answers are staring us in the face because the people were trying to help have the answer and we mightnt hear them.

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