Governing preschool : producing and managing preschool education in Queensland government schools

Ailwood, Joanne (2003). Governing preschool : producing and managing preschool education in Queensland government schools PhD Thesis, School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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Author Ailwood, Joanne
Thesis Title Governing preschool : producing and managing preschool education in Queensland government schools
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2003
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor Prof. R. Lingard
Total pages 290
Language eng
Subjects 330000 Education
Formatted abstract
The study presented in this thesis provides a comprehensive genealogy of preschool education in Queensland government schools. It is one analysis of how Queensland constructs, regulates and governs its young citizens as educated subjects. Most significantly, the study points towards early childhood educational institutions as fruitful sites for building up narratives of a society, its politics and economy.

The analysis is approached as a genealogy of governmentality, which enables a consideration of the two research questions that guide this thesis:

•  How has preschool childhood been produced; that is, what are the regimes of truth, practice and thought that surround preschool childhood?
•  How have these regimes been made technical, practical and rational in the provision of preschool education in Queensland government schools?

These two questions emerged out of the disjuncture I felt over the publication in 1998 of the Preschool Curriculum Guidelines. This curriculum framework document was of interest to me for two reasons. First, preschool education in Queensland was initiated in the early 1970s and, until the publication 26 years later of the Preschool Curriculum Guidelines, the Queensland government showed very little interest in what went on in preschool classrooms. Secondly, the preschool year in Queensland Is currently a part-time voluntary year, and the Preschool Curriculum Guidelines was published for mandatory use in this setting. Quite clearly, there were changes afoot in the governing of preschool education in Queensland. My study is one interpretation of these changes.

As a genealogy of governmentality, building on the work of Foucault (2000/1978) and Rose (1999b), this thesis is a study of documents, themes, discourses and power relations. It searches not for origins or truths, but for links between macro contextual factors and the invention of institutional practices for the governing of young children and their teachers. This search reveals the accidents, contingencies, knavery, conflict and cattiness that contribute to the everyday commonsense of preschool education.

Despite critique to the contrary, young children in early childhood educational discourses are predominantly produced as innocent and natural individuals who develop along a universal path to rational adulthood. Conducting a genealogical study of the governing of preschool education requires a significant shift in thinking about how subjects, including both children and adults, are produced within the dominant discourses of early childhood education. Throughout this study understandings of childhood as natural or innocent are rejected, instead childhood is viewed as a deeply social time of life that is governed in relation to particular social, political and historical contexts.

I argue that preschool education is closely linked into macro political, social and economic contexts. Further, I illustrate how understandings of young children and the provisions for their care and education shift in concert with understandings of adult worker/citizens. Historically, it has been understandings of women and motherhood that have been particularly influential upon changes in understandings of preschool childhood and education. This thesis, therefore, pays attention to shifting notions of motherhood, of women in paid work and links to childhood.

The final contribution I aim to make through this study is to an emerging critique of governmentality studies; that is, the tendency of these studies to be blind to categories of difference. Throughout this thesis I am explicitly conscious of the fact that when considering the governing of preschool teachers, the governed are, by and large, women. To investigate the regulation of a predominantly female workforce I also take into account the various methods, tactics and means through which women have governed each other in the field of early childhood education.

This thesis makes an analysis of the establishment, governing and regulation of preschool education in Queensland government schools. The study presented in this thesis is one of a (very small) handful of studies that make any historical analysis of preschool education in Queensland, and indeed Australia. Further it is the only study, to my knowledge, that places preschool education in Queensland within the macro contexts of both Australian and broader western social and political discourses.
Keyword Education, Preschool -- Queensland
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Wed, 28 Apr 2010, 12:40:32 EST by Muhammad Noman Ali on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service