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15 October 2020

We live in a global world strongly influenced by the ideology of neoliberalism. The social imaginaries created by global neoliberalism shape political understandings of, and responses to, issues. It is in this context that nations develop early childhood policies, and those working in the early childhood sector interpret these policies and enact them in their practice. These understandings and their associated professional practices form the basis of the sector’s drive towards professional recognition.

It is my contention that the requirements of professionalism as generally understood in the Australian neoliberal social imaginary shape practice in ways that I see as undesirable and counter to my understandings of what good quality early childhood practice should look like. The heart and soul of early childhood is being undermined. We have acquiesced to this drive to shape children into neoliberal, compliant citizens in order to receive the status our sector deserves; the status of being recognised as professionals. Is the sacrifice worth the rewards?

In this talk, I will examine the ways in which the various neoliberal imaginaries have impacts on early childhood policy. I will examine the ways in which I believe these imaginaries are creating early childhood sectors that make it more difficult, if not impossible, to enact what I consider the elements of high quality practice and the consequence of these for the path towards professionalism taken by the sector. My aim is simply to raise awareness of the risks that I think need to be considered, and to prompt debate about the key issues I see currently influencing the sector. I believe resistance to these trends is essential but resistance needs to arise from an understanding of where we are (and why), and from clear consideration as to what we want to stand for.

Presented by Professor Margaret Sims
Margaret is Honorary Professor of Early Childhood at Macquarie University. Her recent research focuses on the professionalisation of early childhood and the neoliberal and neoliberal-hybrid contexts in which that is enacted across different nations. Her most recent book is an expose of the impact of neoliberalism and managerialism on higher education and it is this focus she is applying to the early childhood sector in the presentation. Margaret has three children, 7 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

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