Since the 1990s, neo-liberal economics has profoundly altered the nature and delivery of early childhood education and care in both Australia and New Zealand through the creation of childcare markets. Accompanying the rise of the market has been a discourse of childcare as a commodity – a commodity marketed and sold to its consumers (read parents) as a private benefit. The stratifying impact of neo-liberalism in education policy has been argued by numerous scholars of education. Arguably, in both Australia and New Zealand, early childhood education and care is more commodified and subject to the market than any other area of education. Thus, the authors consider whether early childhood education and care has shifted away from being understood as a social good, a site for social cohesion and democratic practice – all of which the authors consider to be implicated in a conceptualisation of belonging appropriate to the project of early childhood education and care. This article considers the impact of neo-liberal policies on early childhood education and care in Australia and New Zealand, especially in relation to understandings and manifestations of ‘belonging’. The authors trace the impact of neo-liberalism in early childhood education and care policy and examine the ways in which the discourse of early childhood education and care provision has changed, both in policy and in how the market makes its appeal to parents as consumers. The authors argue that appeals to narrowly defined, individualised self-interest and advancement threaten understandings of belonging based on social solidarity and interdependence.
Press, F., Woodrow, C., Logan, H., & Mitchell, L. (2018). Can we belong in a neo-liberal world? Neo-liberalism in early childhood education and care policy in Australia and New Zealand. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 19(4), 328-339. https://doi.org/10.1177/1463949118781909