The changing rationalities of home-school collaboration: A genealogy of Finnish early childhood education and care

Year: 2016

Author: Alasuutari, Maarit

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

For decades, educational institutions and research have underlined the significance of home-school collaboration (e.g. Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Bronfenbrenner and Morris, 2006; Keyes, 2002; Powell and Diamond, 1995), but at the same time the understandings about the collaboration have changed (e.g. Powell and Diamond, 1995). Nowadays, home-school collaboration and parental engagement in education are commonly discussed in terms of partnership (Hughes & MacNaughton, 2000; Nichols & Jurvansuu, 2008; Oberhuemer, 2005; OECD 2001 & 2006; Vincent & Tomlinson, 1997). This is also the case in Finnish early childhood education and care, which is the context of the present study. In Finland the partnership ‘turn’ took place in the turn of the century. The study examines the understandings of home-school collaboration in Finnish early childhood education (previously day care) from a Foucauldian framework. The study can be called a genealogy of public day care/early childhood education, since the examination covers the period from the enforcement of public day care in 1972 until the present time. The dominant understandings of home-school collaboration in each period are conceptualised as rationalities of government, which aim at shaping families, children as well as the educational institutions toward specific aims (Dean, 1999; Rose, 1999). In the study, the rationalities are examined by analysing the discourses that the descriptions of home-early childhood education collaboration draw on in the main steering documents of Finnish early childhood education between 1972 and 2016. The specific methods and practices of collaboration suggested in the documentary data are conceptualised as techniques of government (ibid.). The analysis applies discourse analytic tools (Wood and Kroger, 2000). The study argues that the first decades of public day care are framed by a rationality that underlines an individualistic approach to home-school collaboration, but at the same time emphasises professional expertise. However, along with the increasing emphasis on individualisation of early childhood education, the rationality of collaboration changes towards standardisation; that is, the practices of collaboration are the same for all families. The change occurs very much due to/intertwined with the increasing documentation of the child that always entails the involvement of the parents in one way or another.