Dynamics of bilingual early childhood education: parental attitudes and institutional realisation
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 13:54 by Victoria Benz
Bilingual education in Australia is widely considered to be highly desirable but unsuccessful. This study seeks to explore this tension through an ethnographic investigation of a bilingual German-English programme at an early childhood education centre operating at two locations in Sydney. The study addresses the complex relationship between the childcare provider and its clientele in the socio-political context. Four sets of data were collected for the research, namely documents, on-site observations, interviews with educators, directors and parents, as well as a demographic survey. The triangulation of these different data sets results in a holistic picture of the dynamics at work in early childhood education. These dynamics include the complex interplay between parental attitudes and their expectations of the bilingual programme and language learning, as well as the childcare provider’s background, linguistic practices, orientation and public image. Based on this analysis, the research problematizes the ways in which Australia’s ideological environment influences and shapes the implementation and value of bilingual childcare in Sydney. At the time of data collection, the childcare centres where the research took place had only recently been established. Therefore, programmes, policies and practices were still under development and in flux, while parents encountered bilingual education as a novel experience. This allowed the research to focus on bilingual education as a dynamic set of tensions between opportunities and constraints. Sites of tension include language choice, internal policies, bilingual qualifications, parental involvement, centre marketing, and the German language. Overall, the study finds that internal and external constraints militate against the success of the bilingual programme. The research has implications for language policy at family, institutional and state levels.