A paradox of age in early childhood education: A review of the literature and survey of Australian educators working with three-year-old children

Sheena Elwick, Elizabeth Jayne White

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Abstract

A paradox concerning age exists in early childhood education (ECE) across many countries today, evident in the literature, curriculum, policy, funding, and provision. This paradox comprises two distinct approaches that call for either a specialised developmental approach to discrete age groups or a generic attitude concerning childhoods with no age distinction at all. This article traces the presence and impact of the paradox of age through an Australian study comprising two components: a review of the literature concerning age; and, a survey undertaken in two states where different treatments of age were evident: NSW and Victoria—with a particular interest in what was happening for three-year-olds. 171 responses were received 102 (NSW) and 69 (Victoria). The review of the literature generated four main themes that when considered in relation to the survey responses revealed the tendency of ECE researchers, policymakers, and educators to situate children within a “discourse of becoming” that focusses attention towards children’s maturity and skills, and school readiness. While this discourse has been used productively, its prevalence in this study suggests that many children attending ECE services are likely to experience learning environments that do not always acknowledge the importance of the here and now, or the wealth of experience and knowledge they bring to these environments. This calls attention to the attitudes and assumptions of educators themselves concerning the treatment of younger learners; as well as the constraints and opportunities that policymakers provide for effective provision, and that influence both the nature of and access to ECE.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalEducational Research for Policy and Practice
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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