In Sweden, as well as in other Nordic countries, preschool is the first important step for many children in their training to be a democratic citizen. The goals in the Swedish curricula are ambitious; girls and boys from different backgrounds shall, for example, have the same possibilities to exercise influence and to learn about, and “to live”, democracy in preschool (Skolverket, 2016). How this should be carried out in the daily activities is left to the pedagogues to decide. The democratic commission in the curricula is sometimes contradictory (e.g. solidarity with others and individual freedom of choice), and research from Nordic countries reports that teachers understand this commission in different ways, and often see it as difficult to implement (Jansen, Johansson & Eriksen Ødegaard 2011). This paper focuses ‘the lived democracy’ in preschools, with a special interest for children´s influence. It covers the processes when teachers invite children to influence, as well as in the children’s own attempts to influence in preschool (how and about what, and the responses of the teachers).
The analysis in this paper is based on Basil Bernstein’s (2000) theories regarding power, control and pedagogic codes, in combination with pertinent feminist perspectives on democratic education (principally those of Arnot & Dillabough (2000), Arnot & Reay (2007) and Gordon (2006)). An ethnographic field study has been carried out during 2015-16, with participant observations in three preschool groups during two months each, eight group interviews with teacher teams, and eleven interviews with children in small groups. The preschools were selected to cover a diversity of local contexts in terms of ethnicity and socio-economic circumstances, from rural areas, and from districts in big cities (with a large number of immigrants, and with a majority of “middle-/upper class”). In the analyses it is central to consider both different groups of children´s attempts to influence, and the teacher’s invitations in the pedagogic practices. The preliminary result focuses, for example, if the processes of influence are individually or collectively oriented, the teachers´ attitudes to, and their expectations on, children’s´ possibilities to act, and what seem to be a legitimate way to exercise influence if wanting to reach the teachers ears.
Arnot, M & Dillabough, J-A (2000). Challenging democracy: International perspectives on gender, education and citizenship. London: RoutledgeFalmer.
Arnot, M & Reay, D (2007). A sociology of pedagogic voice: Power, inequality and pupil consultation. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 28(3), 311-325.
Bernstein, B (2000). Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: Theory, research, critique (reviderad upplaga) Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
Gordon, T (2006). Girls in education: Citizenship, gender and emotions. Gender and Education 18(1), 1-15.
Jansen, K E, Johansson, E & Eriksen Ødegaard (2011). På jakt etter demokratibegrep i barnehagen. Nordisk barnehageforskning, 4(2), 61-64.
Skolverket (2016). Curriculum for the preschool Lpfö 98. Revised 2016. [Läroplan för förskolan Lpfö 98. Reviderad 2016]. Stockholm: Skolverket.
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