From integration to the separation of play and learning
The purpose of the paper is to discuss the consequences that the learning agenda has had on the everyday practices in daycare institutions for children between 0-6 years in Denmark. The theoretical framework is primarily drawn from Basil Bernstein’s sociology of education and Henri Lefebvre´s theory of everyday life and rhythm analysis. The empirical data consists of four weeks of fieldwork in two daycare institutions. That includes observations during whole days, interviews with all members of staff and workshops in which critical reflections on everyday practices were encouraged along with (re)formulations of other visions for daycare than those that characterize the neoliberal agenda. Using the theoretical concepts from Basil Bernstein, we discuss how there has been a transformation from invisible to more visible pedagogies which can be accounted for with a stronger classification of formal leaning activities, causing a separation and hierarchization of learning activities and other everyday activities such as routines, care work etc. Also a transformation towards a stronger framing of learning activities with reduced possibilities to create social and rhythmic qualities in the children’s everyday life in daycare seems to emerge. In Denmark, where the full coverage of children in professional daycare to a large degree has been accomplished, the recontextualisaion of transnational policies on ECEC takes on a particular form. Thus, it is the learning aspect of these policies that has had a tremendous impact. Even though the transnational policies stress the Nordic tradition of integration between play and learning, the recontextualisation of these policies in Denmark seems to have resulted in an actual separation or dichotomization. The Danish daycare institutions have traditionally been inspired by the pedagogical philosophies of Montessori, Fröbel, Rousseau etc. if not always in practice then as central frames of reference. This has meant a strong orientation toward pedagogical ideologies of self-regulation, democracy etc. The discovery models of learning in which the central task of the professionals is to establish a good learning environment in which the child can develop its “inner” potentials have often built on these philosophical ideas. Now, however, the focus on learning along with increased demands of accountability have resulted in an increased use of instruction modes of teaching in which the activities are clearly regulated by the social educators. Yet the traditional frames of references can still be observed as guiding the practice of the social educators in the everyday routines of daycare institutions. In the paper we will discuss how the social educators encourage children’s learning in different settings – in a formal leaning situation and in an everyday routine. The paper contributes to the debate about “schoolification” of daycare and to the academic discussions of the consequences of neoliberal regulations of daycare institutions. It also contributes to the political debate about the special qualities of daycare institutions as “unique thirds”, and how the integration between play and learning, which is a quality stressed in the policies, is an integration that is threatened in practice.
day care centres; neoliberalism; recontextualization