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Home arrow Education arrow Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand: History, Pedagogy, and Liberation

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New right enmeshment with liberal social policies

The “Fourth Labour Government” (1984-1989) has been described as an interesting mix of “New-Right individualism and collectivist interventionism” in service of equity (Middleton, 1992, p. 318). In 1988, the Labour Prime Minister and Minister for Education, David Lange commissioned a report on ECCE (Meade, 1988) that included the incorporation of te reo Maori and tikanga Maori (Maori language and culture) in its list of characteristics of “good quality” ECCE. This report then informed the government’s new ECCE policy, “Before Five” (Lange, 1988). Prime Minister David Lange stated that, “This Government sees early childhood education as having a priority among its social policies” (as cited in May, 2002, p. 6). In line with that government’s social policy agenda, The “Before Five” policy required that national guidelines to be drawn up for ECE were to take account of The Treaty of Waitangi. The Treaty/Tiriti had officially entered the ECCE discourse. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, diverse groupings within the ECCE sector separately publicly acknowledged a commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi (Ritchie, 2002).

However, in 1990, a National Government came to power, taking to further extremes the neoliberal privatization agenda introduced by its predecessor, but with scant regard for any social protections. Public money was diverted into private ECCE centers through government subsidies, with little accountability, enabling these services to retain significant amounts of profit (May, as cited in EducateNZ—Education News, 2005, p. 1). Schools and early childhood centers were now expected “to compete amongst themselves” within the “education market,” parents and children were “recast as education consumers,” and “the fetish of parental choice became predominant” (George, 2008, p. 17). In 1991, the Minister of Education, Lockwood Smith removed the requirement for school charters to address equity, equality of opportunity, and the Treaty of Waitangi, claiming this change would allow schools more “freedom” to be “flexible” to respond to community “choice” (McKinley, 1994; L. Smith, 1991). Neoliberal individualism thus displaced a commitment to an ethic of social equity and to recognition of the Indigenous people. As Hickey-Moody and Malins explain, “What capitalism deterritorial- izes on the one hand, it reterritorializes on the other” (Hickey-Moody & Malins, 2007, p. 15). The opportunities for Tiriti-aligned educational possibilities that had been opened up through the initial neoliberal reforms of the education system under Labour, were immediately shut down by the new National government:

Lines of flight decode and deterritorialize, but can be—and always eventually are—recaptured or reterritorialized in molar processes such as institutionalized and bureaucratic educational practices that translate the desire of bodies into the line segments necessary to make ‘education’ happen. (Albrecht-Crane & Daryl Slack, 2007, p. 104)

 
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