Equity and educators enacting the Australian early years learning framework

Year: 2012

Author: Grieshaber, Sue, Graham, Linda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper provides a policy analysis of recent reforms in early childhood education and the requirement that all educators working with young children from birth to the age of five use the mandated learning framework, "Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia" (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009). It draws on three philosophical traditions of social justice to investigate whether educators are being treated equitably when all are expected to use the Learning Framework regardless of whether they are degree, associate or diploma qualified; unqualified, or becoming qualified. That is, all educators are expected to engage in work traditionally associated with teachers. Three philosophical traditions associated with attempts to achieve social justice in education are informed by distributive policies of justice and include liberal-humanism (Rawls, 1972); market-individualism (Noziac, 1974), and social democracy (Walzer, 1983). The analysis of the Framework identifies evidence of liberal humanist ideas of fairness, individual freedom and state responsibility for removing barriers that impede equal power relationships and prevent equity; but in relation to children rather than educators. The paper also shows how market individualism is manifested in the policy requirement that educators improve their levels of education; and that they are conceived in human capital or economic terms, valued for their skills and their capacity for training and retraining (see Rose, 1999). Social democratic notions of justice reject liberal humanism and market-individualism in favour of social relationships and community. The paper makes a case that for educators, the Framework lacks a social democratic emphasis on person rights. It also argues that favouring market-individualism makes it difficult for the state to intervene in the market to protect and preserve equality in society (see Rizvi & Lingard, 2010). Therefore distributive approaches to justice have some merit when wealth and income are considered, but are inadequate when rights, respect, opportunities and power are of concern (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010), as they are for educators required to enact the Framework. Thus the three traditions of social justice (liberal-humanism, market-individualism, social democracy) are limited in their applicability to recent reforms and policy developments such as the Framework. The paper concludes that while equity is considered in the Framework in relation to children, educators are seemingly absent from this conception as all educators are required to engage in work associated with qualified teachers and enact the Framework, regardless of whether they are degree, associate or diploma qualified; unqualified, or becoming qualified.