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Volume 4, Number 3 - April 2016


What’s in a philosophy statement? A critical discourse analysis of early childhood centre philosophy statements in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Early childhood centres use philosophy statements to share the underpinning values and beliefs that frame their programmes. It could also be argued that, in an increasingly privatised and corporatised sector, philosophy statements are also used to market early childhood services to potential and existing users of the service. This research project used critical discourse analysis to examine the philosophy statements of 50 early childhood centres across Aotearoa New Zealand, arguing that a collective analysis of these statements would reveal which discourses operating in the sector are privileged and those which are marginalised. This research project sought to understand how dominant discourses in the sector reflect or resist current prevailing (and, at times, contradictory) ideologies in the broader early childhood political landscape – both nationally and globally. The research revealed that Western notions of play and play-based pedagogies were strong discourses across the philosophy statements examined. Also, neo-liberal and neo-colonial discourses pertaining to the child as an individual consumer of education, a capable, confident and flexible future worker, were also prevalent. Two discourses directly related to equity and social justice goals for the sector were less prevalent – these were discourses about inclusion and notions of indigenous rights and bicultural practices. This finding presents a challenge to the sector in which centres must find ways to re-engage with the inclusive, bicultural and locally relevant foundations of Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 1996).

 

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