Early childhood education: profitable investment or democratic potential
Over the last 30 years, early childhood education has risen to become a policy priority among both national governments and international organisations. In a political context of neoliberalism, they have been attracted by a particular and increasingly dominant discourse, what I have termed ‘the story of quality and high returns’. This is a story of hugely profitable investment returns resulting from applying powerful human technologies (aka quality) to young children, a story of instrumental rationality, calculating and unequal relationships and the child as human capital. I will outline this story and explain why I find it both implausible and dangerous, not least because it leads to ever greater governing of children, parents and early childhood workers. But this is just one story about early childhood education, and there are others that can be (and are being) told, some of which are more hopeful and open up to new thinking and new directions. Drawing inspiration from the Italian educator Loris Malaguzzi and the municipal schools of Reggio Emilia, I will offer one such story, which suggests the potential contribution of early childhood education – indeed all education – to a more democratic, more caring and more sustainable future.