Early childhood reform discourses: Perspectives and positions of kindergarten professionals in Victoria

Year: 2019

Author: Armstrong, Lauren, C.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Over the past decade, Australian early childhood education has been immersed in change. Since 2009, significant reforms have been introduced, including the first national curriculum framework (the EYLF, in 2009); and the national quality framework (the NQF, in 2012). The Victorian early childhood context has also been particularly fraught with change, evident from the establishment of their state curriculum framework (the VEYLDF, in 2009, later updated in 2016). The first version of this document was initiated almost simultaneously with its national counterpart. This was especially momentous for Victoria, as unlike other parts of Australia, it was the first time a curriculum document had been adopted. Additionally, 2011 ascertained changes to qualification requirements within the national early childhood regulations (specifically impacting the Victorian sector). The rapid sequence of these reforms generated challenges for early childhood professionals who were required to equitably understand, interpret and translate these changes to their practice. According to the literature, multiple factors are involved in successful reform engagement, such as knowledge, skills, resources, time and support. In consideration of these factors and the context of the Victorian early childhood sector, a poststructural study was conducted between 2015 and 2016 which examined the research question: How do educational reform discourses shape and reshape the positioning and engagement of early childhood professionals in Victoria?

This paper offers key findings from data collected with eleven participants working in kindergartens across the south-eastern region of Victoria. The positions of these participants included teacher, teaching assistant, and director/manager. One selection criterion for participant recruitment focused upon year of qualification (prior to, or following the reforms beginning in 2009). Data collection included single, 30-60 minute, qualitative, semi-structured interviews. These interviews revealed various perspectives among participants regarding reform engagement throughout the past decade. From the application of Foucauldian Discourse Analysis, diverse discourses were discovered regarding how participants perceived and experienced these reforms. Furthermore, this analysis made visible certain subjective positions which were available and occupied by these participants throughout the reform process. This paper presents some insights into these discourses and positions, and how this knowledge may inform future early childhood policy reform initiatives. Moreover, it reflects the theme of education for a socially just world, as it seeks to examine the underpinning issues of power that are associated with reform initiatives, and how this may coerce early childhood professionals to navigate challenges of inequity in the complex system of policy reform.