Education and care of children under three: Is there a crisis at the theoretical, policy and practical level?

Year: 2006

Author: Nyland, Berenice

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Today an increasing number of children spend significant numbers of hours each week in non-parental care. Childcare has become a major educational niche. At the same time research on infants, as competent and intentional agents, has grown exponentially and teachers who work with young children are faced with complex choices as they design education and care contexts that ensure well-being for all children. There is criticism of the design and practices that exist in infant-toddler group programs in Australia and this criticism comes from all stakeholders. Some of the most stringent comes from staff working within these institutions. There is an identified need to improve practices. However, apart from practical challenges, like an inadequate regulatory environment, early childhood is experiencing an intellectual crisis as the theoretical foundations of practice are questioned. Ideas of individualism, play and development that dominated the 20th century have come under attack from a number of directions.

This paper presents a discussion of the challenges that are facing infant-toddler group care programs in Australia. Topics include theoretical tensions, problems of regulation and policy, research findings and the perceived threat of corporate provision. This discussion is supported by data on infant daily experience within the childcare context.