The Australian Early Childhood Education and Care Workforce: Feminism, Feminisation and Fragmentation.

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... Drawing upon our own and others' previous research and scholarship on the creation of an Australian childcare market (Newberry and Brennan 2013;Woodrow 2005, 2009;Woodrow and Press 2007;Sumsion 2012) and the history of ECEC in Australia (Press and Wong 2013, 2015, 2016, we consider the possible manifestations of elite education and internationalisation in ECEC. We ask whether the rise of private, for-profit childcare has resulted in an elite early childhood education market. ...
... Despite the existence of the racist "White Australia Policy" formally introduced in 1901, the cultural diversity of Australia's population expanded greatly after World War II. Between 1947 and1953, 170,000 displaced persons from Europe were resettled in Australia commencing a commitment to migration that has continued to the present day. 1 An estimated 28% of F. PRESS AND C. WOODROW Australians are born overseas, with an additional 20% having at least one parent born overseas (Press 2015). Former Australian Human Rights Commissioner Sev Ozdowski argues that Australian multiculturalism is not a simply demographic descriptor but can be "understood as a social compact that involves power and wealth sharing between different ethnocultural groups … usually based on equality of status and opportunity" (Ozdowski 2012: no pagination). ...
Over the past quarter of a century, the childcare component of Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) has transformed from a publicly funded, community-based system to a predominantly commercial enterprise. The associated marketisation of ECEC has given rise to widespread claims of educational excellence, but the creation of an elite ECEC sector is only nascent. Additionally, the internationalisation and intercultural competence evident in ECEC is rooted in Australian multicultural policy and philosophical commitments to cultural inclusion, rather than the promotion of cultural agility through the internationalisation of elite ECEC in global childcare markets. Thus the relationship between the market, elite education and internationalisation in early childhood education is, in many ways, distinct from the interplay of these forces within other education sectors.
... Taking a feminist perspective to understand ECEC in Australia is very relevant for ECEC has been and still is a highly feminized workforce, nearly 97% female (Press, 2015). As a gendered profession with philanthropic origins, the historical and socio-cultural conceptions of care and education in the early years have been nested within a network of power relations to evoke multiple threads of critical discussions. ...
Care in the early years entails more than childcare. This paper has three major sections. In the first section, I begin with an introduction and a quick overview of the ECEC system in Australia. This snapshot of the Australian ECEC system presents a messy map of the care and education system for young children under a neoliberal political economy to elucidate what this may mean in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. With this contextual background of the ECEC system in Australia, in the second section I discuss my theoretical, ethical, political, ontological, and epistemological positioning when re-imagining and reconceptualizing what a socially just ECEC landscape might look like through the lens of a feminism approach. This onto-epistemological discussion explains the shift toward a feminist approach and how this enables me to (re)think about care and education in the early years differently. Taking up this different set of analytical tools with a post-structural sensibility of the politics of caring, in the third section, I continue on to critical analyses and discussions, highlighting the paradoxes of care and education in the early years. A key aim of this paper is to un-settle the taken-for-granted ways of thinking and talking about ECEC in Australia. I build my discussions by unsettling the dominant ways of thinking about care and education in the early years to deconstruct the narrowed political rhetoric of care in the early years as childcare only. I assert such a critical analytical position requires a new language from a new onto-epistemological positioning to mobilize a different system of reasoning as a strategy for re-imagining a new landscape toward an ethical world with social justice and greater social inclusion for all children.
... Penn (2011), like Osgood (2004 has discussed that there is a gendered aspect to the skill set that is viewed as being needed to work with young children, with ECEC being closely associated with mothering. Given the biological deterministic view of women as carers and the evolution of ECEC services being provided for women by other women it is little surprise that such a feminist discourse is prominent in many countries (Persson & Ingegerd Browman, 2015;Press, 2015). Campbell-Barr (2014) has disputed that it is solely gender that has shaped constructions of ECEC, arguing that concepts of childhood also shape what is seen as an appropriate way of working with young children, drawing on historical developments on the motivations for intervening in the lives of young children as being important for understanding those who work in ECEC. ...
The early childhood workforce is routinely demonstrated as being central to the quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC). Frequently, discussions of quality focus on structural features of training, such as level and duration. However, the literature demonstrates that quality extends beyond the structural and that early childhood practitioners identify knowledge that is not from qualifications, referring instead to less tangible attitudes that are often seen as innate for guiding their work with children. Drawing on empirical research in three European countries (UK, Hungary and Italy), this paper considers the attitudes that those at the start of their professional development identify for ECEC and where and how they develop them. The findings highlight how attitudes are bound by socio-cultural understandings of ECEC, with a post-structuralist perspective highlighting the importance of bringing to the fore the tacit attitudinal knowledge that is assumed to exist for guiding quality ECEC.
Change is not a new concept in the Australian early childhood sector. However, the rate of change has significantly increased throughout the last decade, specifically with the introduction of the curriculum and quality frameworks, changes to regulations, and subsequent reviews (some particularly affecting the Victorian long day care sector). The rapid timeline of these reforms created challenges for early childhood professionals who needed to understand, interpret and translate multiple changes to their practice. This paper presents some key findings from a poststructural study involving 11 participants from the Victorian long day care sector. Foucauldian Discourse Analysis has been applied to explore how reform discourses shape and reshape the positioning and engagement of professionals within the reform process. These findings reveal how specific subject positions and discursive practices within available discourses of knowledge, teacher education and workplace can either challenge and/or support early childhood professionals in their ability to engage in reform.
Early childhood education has undergone immense change over the years. In Australia, this has included the introduction of curriculum and quality frameworks [ACECQA. 2012 ACECQA. 2012. National Quality Framework. [Google Scholar]. National Quality Framework.; DEEWR. 2009 DEEWR. 2009. Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Barton: ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. ISBN:9780642778727. [Google Scholar]. Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Barton: ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. ISBN:9780642778727; DET. 2016 DET. 2016. Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework: For All Children From Birth to Eight Years. East Melbourne, VIC: Department of Education and Training. ISBN:978-0-7594-0800-5. [Google Scholar]. Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework: For All Children From Birth to Eight Years. East Melbourne, VIC: Department of Education and Training. ISBN:978-0-7594-0800-5], and changes to early childhood pre-service and in-service teacher education [ASQA. 2015 ASQA. 2015. Training for early childhood education and care: Report. = 1508135481. [Google Scholar]. Training for early childhood education and care: Report. = 1508135481]. This article is based on a broader qualitative study, which was conducted in 2015-2016. It investigated how workplace discourses supported or hindered the ability for early childhood professionals in Victorian long day care settings to engage in education reform. Using a poststructuralist lens and Foucauldian Discourse Analysis [FDA] [Arribas-Ayllon, M., and V. Walkerdine. 2017. “Foucauldian Discourse Analysis.” In The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research in Psychology, 2nd ed., edited by C. Willig, and W. Stainton-Rogers, 110–123. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. ISBN:9781526405555; Willig, C. 2008. “Discourse Analysis.” In Qualitative Psychology: A Practical Guide to Research Methods, 2nd ed., edited by J. A. Smith, 160–185. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications. ISBN:9781412930833], specific workplace discourses were identified. These discourses framed the available subject positions which were afforded by directors, centre-coordinators and educators relating to reform engagement. Some of these positions were supportive of reform engagement, while others hindered this process. The findings presented throughout this paper offer some insight into how workplace discourses impact reform engagement in early childhood education.
Government policies in Australia and in many other parts of the world, are calling for degree-qualified teachers to work in prior to formal school settings (center-based care, preschool). Yet, many preservice early childhood teachers assume they will end up teaching in primary schools. This paper examines the professional identities preservice early childhood teachers take up and speak into action while participating in classes focused on teaching in child care. Employing poststructural social theory, data drawn from focus groups with preservice early childhood teachers was examined through a Foucauldian-informed discourse analysis. Particular ways in which the preservice teachers talked about images of children and quality in early childhood are scrutinized for how discourses work to constitute the professional identities of preservice early childhood teachers. It was found that the participants drew on a range of competing discourses available to them, through their degree, and from elsewhere to describe the work of teaching young children and teaching in child care. These competing and colliding discourses, it is argued produce an identity of preservice teachers as ‘heroic victims.’ The paper raises questions about the discourses in circulation in preservice early childhood teacher education, and considers the implications this has for professional identities and career pathways—particularly work in child care.
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