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Home arrow Geography arrow Global Perspectives on Human Capital in Early Childhood Education: Reconceptualizing Theory, Policy, and Practice

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Longitudinal Studies and Measuring of Change: Definition of “Ideal” Citizen

In the conceptualization of early education as a future-oriented investment, early childhood education, along with parents, is attributed a central role in engineering the child’s genetic potential for excellence. The focus is on the child as a future adult. Early education is meant to guarantee a particular and “ideal” citizen in whom the entrepreneurial capacities are strengthened. The ideal citizen is portrayed in the AQEV’s report as follows:

Thanks to the contribution of early childhood education, children who have grown up to be individuals with self-esteem, learned how to use their potential at maximum, developed their physical and cognitive abilities, and are able to communicate with their environment effectively, can play a transformative role once they join the social life and workforce. (2007, p. 3; my translation)

The conceptualization of early education as an investment in the child’s entrepreneurial adult potential leads the efforts to concentrate on the development of procedures and techniques in order to measure and document the effect of early education programs on the optimization of children’s potential and the improvement of their economic value. Longitudinal studies that follow preschoolers through a long period of time have been key sources of evidence for the claim that early education is a sound investment.

Similar to the other documents analyzed, the TUSIAD report (2005, pp. 38-43) presents a body of international and national “evidence” in order to make a claim about the short- and long-term benefits of early education. Embedded in the evidence presented in support of early education is a further definition of the ideal citizen. The first set of qualities defining the ideal citizen is related to being a proper consumer of public services including education. Being ready for school and prepared to succeed in the school system is one of the first qualities and involves being “cognitively and linguistically developed,” for instance. Among the other qualities are “no referral to special education,” “good exam results,” “no class retention,” “high school graduation,” and so on. What the ideal citizen means in adulthood includes, for example, “no dependence on social security,” “earning well,” “being healthy,” “continuity in job” (no absences), “high status jobs,” and “owning a computer and credit card.”

One of the immediate consequences of the particular conceptualization of the child as capital (resource) expected to yield a future return when invested in is that this view of the child renders children “eminently” amenable to adult surveillance and intervention. The scope of the surveillance and intervention is not limited to children; it also involves parents. Attributed to a central role along with parents in engineering the child’s genetic potential for excellence, early education constitutes parents, especially low socioeconomic status parents, as objects of inspection and improvement in order to ensure that they excel in their parenting:

Early childhood education aims to contribute to the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development of the child; for this aim, it aims to educate not just the child herself but also the whole environment of the child, but especially her parents first; thus, it seeks to bring up children who are healthy in all aspects and make good use of their potentials. (AQEV, 2007, p. 2; my translation)

 
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