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

The Creation of the Other

In the beginning of this chapter, we elaborated that human capital discourse promotes a version of childhood that is derived from devel- opmentalism and favors a Western, middle-class vision of childhood. This is also evident in the ECED program in Indonesia. Their program promotes a single definition of childhood.

One of the key features of ECED in Indonesia was the existence of an assessment regime. According to the ECED project initiated by the World Bank, children needed to be assessed and evaluated. Hasan et al. (2013) asserts that in Indonesia children were measured using an internationally validation instrument such as the Early Development Instrument (EDI) (Janus & Offord, 2007), the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) (Goodman, 1997), or the Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS) task (Zelazo, 2006). The EDI was based on Canadian norms and, not surprisingly, on being used to test Indonesian children in villages, the scores were lower than the norm. These sets of instruments illustrate the process by which a child is evaluated in a poor village in Indonesia. A child who could follow these developmental milestones is considered “normal” and thus, those who cannot conform to these norms will be regarded as “abnormal.” This process of evaluation creates a normalization of the child (Walkerdine, 1998). It becomes the process by which children’s development is recorded, observed, classified, and judged. The process has created norms against which all children are subsequently being judged (Greene, 1999). Children who do not conform to these norms are seen as deviant, thus, excluding children from different cultural, racial, and social backgrounds. The use of internationally validated measures has been misleading because by adopting these, the policy makers pretend to be unaware of the social as well as economic inequality between the developed and developing countries like Indonesia.

An Indonesian village child is not the only one who is being “Othered.” Parents, and mothers in particular, are also subject to the governance regime. Above, we explained that mothers are included within this area of childhood education. It is thus assumed that the parenting style of mothers in the villages is inadequate and is therefore in need of correction. Accordingly, the parenting style of middle-class families becomes the norm and the working-class parents require retraining.

In its report, the World Bank also disseminates discourse about good parenting. The parenting style of those in the village was seen to be inadequate because they did not read books to their children and did not promote playing (Hasan et al., 2013). In their report on ECED in Indonesia, the World Bank states,

Many everyday opportunities to support development appear to be missing in the home environments of children in this sample. Parents of the vast majority of these children never read books to their children or tell them stories, activities that predict children’s later competence in language and literacy. About one-quarter of mothers in these rural villages report that their children never play outdoors, and 17 percent of 4-year-olds never draw or scribble at home. Moreover, the children living in the greatest poverty are the least likely to have these experiences. (Hasan et al., 2013, p. 6)

A newer parenting style is circulated in ECE such as Posyandu to ensure that parents learn new skills. What they do not realize is that the parenting style promoted to parents in the village is in fact very much a Euro/American style. By doing this, the World Bank has created a binary in which Euro/American parents are viewed as caring and parents in a country like Indonesia are constructed as oppressive. Here again, the process of “Othering” takes place.

ECE thus constructs a particular version of parenting. It imposes its power by controlling parents’ behavior without the parents themselves being aware that they are being surveilled. By doing this, ECED works using the panopticon principle (Blackford, 2004). “Panopticon” is a term coined by Jeremy Bentham to describe an architectural design that allows an observer to observe someone without the person realizing that she/he is being watched. The term was used by Foucault to explain the concept of ordinary people being constantly subject to the superior’s gaze (Blackford, 2004; Foucault, 1991).

The creation of the Other also takes place among the teachers. We explained earlier that in 2004 ECE was divided into formal and nonformal services. Even though in 2011 the two were merged under one directorate, this does not mean that the conflict and tensions between the two disappeared. In 2005 the Indonesian government approved a comprehensive Teacher and Lecturer Law that was meant to radically reform the nation’s teacher management and development process. This law was then followed by government regulation number 74/2008 about teachers, and the Ministry of National Education regulation number 16/2007 about the Standard of Teachers’ Academic Qualifications and Competences (Chang, Shaeffer, Al-Samarrai, Ragatz, de, & Stevenson, 2014). According to this law, all qualified teachers are eligible for the certification process. Once they receive a certificate, they will be qualified as professional teachers and will thus have the right to be given an additional salary every month. While these laws are supposed to regulate all teachers, when it comes to ECE teachers, it only regulates formal ECE teachers and thus excludes nonformal ECE teachers. To complicate the problem, even though both parties are called educators, according to National Education Law number 14/ 2005, only those working in the formal ECE sector can be officially called teachers.

Thus, nonformal ECE teachers continue to be perceived as the Other in educational discourse in Indonesia.

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