ERG SES G 13, Youth and Education
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are viewed as fields of variable and intensive government regulation (Osgood, 2004). Since standardization has become prominent the OECD has been established as a global ‘bench-maker’ of standards between nation-states and their education institutions (Rinne & Ozga, 2013: 98) - in the case of ECEC through "Starting Strong 3" (2012). The rise of this 'transnational policy orthodoxy' (Jones, 2013: 1) developed by the EU and the OECD and expressed in mechanisms of governance, calibrates the policies of member-states and leads to a constraining of policy makers and educators' autonomy.
The quality issue at all levels of education and in the ECEC sector has become a policy priority for the European Commission, emphasizing its role in eliminating social and cultural inequalities and underachievement (EU, 2011a; Leseman, 2009). However family poverty, aggravated by the social austerity measures that Greece and other European countries face, reduces the likelihood of children's participation in ECEC (Bennett, 2013) or hampers their access to quality provision (Gambaro et al, 2013). Austerity, a consequence of globalizing processes, may lead to shrinking provision within childcare markets, since their "clientele" is affected by growing unemployment, which inevitably generates the risk of ECEC becoming out of reach (Lloyd and Penn, 2014) and of low quality for deprived children (Vandenbroeck and Lazzari, 2014).
This fiscal crisis generates what Lloyd and Penn (2014) identified as 'market pressures', which cause a deregulation of the field identified by the implementation of quality standards' relaxation proposals. Such conditions could directly affect quality and may reflect the natural tendency of ECEC providers - If seen as a market - to favor economically sound localities and maybe - as seen in various cases in the Greek capital, Athens - withdraw from disadvantaged areas. This peculiar deregulation, driven by the economic crisis, collides with the urge for regulation of the rather chaotic field of the Greek ECEC provision and triggers the problematic behind other European countries in crisis. Viewing education - and particularly ECEC - as a market, creates risks exacerbated by the current economic austerity. Consequently the outcomes of such market-efficient models range from social equity and state solidarity risks to the lurking privatisation, which is suggested as a universal panacea to issues of funding and quality (Peters, 2012).
My doctoral research, on which the present paper draws, is oriented towards the global/ European debates surrounding policies related to ECEC and practices in Greece. The aim is to research the role of International Organizations in the simultaneous 'economization' of education policy and the 'educationalization' of economic policy (Sellar and Lingard, 2013: 200). Hence, the processes of regulation and deregulation, the way they are decontextualized and recontextualized at national and municipal level and the consequences for ECEC pose as key issues of this research.
The claim of this paper is that several key players of this field seek regulation through the dissemination of good practices mainly suggested by supranational organizations like the OECD and the EU. Through policy networking their aim is to exchange practices and influence service delivery in the ECEC sector. Following Ball and Junemann (2012) it is important to identify the actors and interactions within and across this network and also how governance networks bring into play particular kinds of expert knowledge. Therefore basic research questions are: How autonomy and external regulation are played out in the Greek ECEC in times of economic crisis? Who defines quality in ECEC? Through what processes and which contexts? With what consequences for those participating in such institutions and with what impact on the identities of the professionals in this field?
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