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Democracy and Participation in Early Childhood Education

Chapter in book
Authors Naomi McLeod
Tarja Karlsson Häikiö
Published in Empowering Early Childhood Educators: International Pedagogies as Provocation
Pages 63-93
ISBN 9781138309647
Publisher Routledge
Place of publication Oxon England, New York USA
Publication year 2019
Published at School of Design and Crafts
Pages 63-93
Language en
Keywords early childhood education, democracy, participation, reflective practice
Subject categories Pedagogy, Learning, Children


This chapter builds on chapters one and two. Having engaged in a meta-cognitive course of action that begins with being ready to question and develop a self-awareness of personal values and beliefs about the purpose of education; an appreciation of the wider political and cultural pressures on early education can be understood. It then becomes possible to see imbalances of power in learning and teaching which are particularly relevant to participation, as this involves sharing power based on a mutual respect (Rinaldi, 2012, 2006; Carr, 1998). Often, though, we are too busy responding to such power forces to recognise and question them. (Scharmer,2009; Beijaard et al., 2004). We begin this chapter by defining democracy and participation in the context of early education as a social construction. In particular Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (1989) is used as a benchmark for respecting children’s right to express their views on matters that concern them and for their views to be taken into account. Article 12 is used as a lens to critically examine the quality of participatory practice and children’s rights to a voice as we draw on Hart’s (1992) ‘Ladder of Participation’ and Shier’s (2001) ‘Pathways to Participation model’ for democratic practice. The relevance of ‘listening’ and a ‘respectful reciprocal relationship’ is explored and examples of what this looks like in practice and reflective prompts are provided throughout. Different challenges and potential benefits for both children and early childhood educators are also explored. In the context of international approaches and quality early education we draw on a posthuman perspective. Ultimately, for democratic and participatory learning and teaching in early education to become sustainable as a meaningful part of everyday practice, we reinforce the need for a commitment to reflexivity and participatory practice as a pedagogy of hope (Moss, 2017).

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