Macquarie University
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Early childhood education and care in New South Wales: historicising the present

posted on 2022-03-28, 15:07 authored by Sandra Mary Wong
This study critically analyses contemporary early childhood education and care (ECEC) in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, by historicising the present. In doing so, it contributes to a growing body of work that problematises current constructs of ECEC. Taking a social constructionist perspective that meanings are socially constructed within discourses, I use critical discourse analysis to identify and problematise multiple constructions of ECEC evident in a range of written public, government and professional texts; first in the contemporary NSW context and then in the period 1893 - 1915, the 'moment' when ECEC first emerged as separate education in Australia. -- In both periods, ECEC was constructed in similar ways; as: separate education; scientific education and care; progressive education; socially just education; national work and women's work. I show how both in the historical and contemporary contexts these constructs emerged within: economic; liberal / progressive; scientific; nationalist and gender discourses. I highlight how power operated through these constructs in a variety of ways to uphold dominant ways of being. I argue that the remarkable similarities between the construction of ECEC in the two periods suggests that these discourses create a discursive framework which creates the opportunity for multiple constructs of ECEC to be produced, but which also limits and confines what ECEC 'is' or can 'be'. -- These findings assist those of us who advocate for ECEC to recognise and understand how alternative, and even contradictory constructs of ECEC may exist concurrently. Such understandings may facilitate dialogue between parties who may differ in their views about the purposes of ECEC. The findings also place a burden on us to continually critically reflect upon and clearly articulate how and why we view ECEC in the ways we do. Further, they provide incentives for us to look beyond the ways ECEC is constructed and to challenge the discourses that make up the discursive framework in which ECEC is situated.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Theoretical understandings -- Methodology -- Contemporary constructs of early childhood education and care: a critical review: part one -- Contemporary constructs of early childhood education and care: a critical review: part two -- Early childhood education and care constructed as separate education -- Free kindergarten constructed as progressive education -- ECEC constructed as scientific education and care -- ECEC constructed as socially just education -- ECEC constructed as national work -- ECEC constructed as women's work -- Discussion.


Bibliography: p. 431-465

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Australian Centre for Educational Studies, Institute of Early Childhood

Department, Centre or School

Institute of Early Childhood

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Jennifer Sumsion

Additional Supervisor 1

Margaret White


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Sandra Mary Wong 2006.




New South Wales


xv, 479 p. ill

Former Identifiers

mq:12345 1448531