Children’s Rights in Early Childhood: An exploration of child rights pedagogy in England and Finland

Cole-Albäck, Aline (2020) Children’s Rights in Early Childhood: An exploration of child rights pedagogy in England and Finland. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Aline Cole-Albäck PhD Thesis published_Volume II Final version_Submitted Jan 2020_Final Award Jan 2021.pdf - Accepted Version

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The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is one of the most widely-ratified international human rights treaties in history, with all but one country in the world having ratified it (UNTC, 2019), yet few adults working in educational settings use the UNCRC as a frame of reference to guide practice (Reynaert et al., 2012). The main reason offered by Reynaert et al. being the lack of knowledge and understanding of how this legal document relates to pedagogical practice. This research therefore set out to explore the concept of child rights pedagogy with a particular focus on children under three years, as children’s rights research to date has mainly focused on verbal children (Bae, 2010; Covell and Howe, 2008; 2011; Quennerstedt, 2016; Sebba and Robinson, 2010; UNICEF, 2019c). Considering the growing number of children under the age of three in some form of out-of-home care across Europe today (DfE 2018; OECD, 2017), this stands out as an under researched area.

My central research question in this qualitative case study was therefore: ‘What does child rights pedagogy entail in Early Childhood Education and Care?’ in relation to two-year-old children in particular. To answer this question, a5-level theoretical framework was developed in the desk-based stage as the foundation for this interpretivist, multi-site case study. Primary data were collected in England and Finland through participant observations, focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews and informal conversations. The analysis process was inspired by Braun and Clarke’s (2006) approach to qualitative data analysis and Gremler’s (2004) guidelines for analysing critical incidents. When searching for meaning in children’s experiences, the in-depth interpretation was inspired by phenomenology as defined by van Manen (1997; 2014) as well as Kraus’ epistemological (2015) understanding of lifeworld and life conditions, that was expanded on with the concept of life interactions. Common ethical criteria were considered in line with university guidelines, but in addition a 4-stage rights-based framework, linking ethical considerations to Articles of the UNCRC, was also developed and followed in this study.

The observational data, collected with an innovative observational method developed for this study, the Significant Events Approach to Children’s Rights, revealed issues, priorities and concerns two-year-old children have, suggesting there are some rights that are more relevant than others in early childhood. Just as the UNCRC as a whole has four General Principles for children 0-18, this study suggests there are Guiding Articles for Early Childhood Education and Care. Drawing on Frezzo’s (2015) notion of rights bundling, new conceptualisations of existing Articles are suggested based on these Guiding Articles.

This research makes several contributions to knowledge from revealing how the concept of rights bundling, derived from property law, was used to create new conceptualisations of Articles of the UNCRC, to detailing an ethical rights-based process for research and work with children, and suggesting how Kraus’ (2013; 2015: 2) reformulation of the term “lifeworld” (Lebenswelt) and “life conditions” (Lebenslage) together with my notion of life interactions (Lebensinteraktion) can frame interpretations of observations in order to get a deeper more nuanced and relational understanding of children’s lived experiences in relation to children’s rights (Cole-Albäck, 2019). Most importantly, this thesis illustrates how the UNCRC is relevant to and can be used more actively as a frame of reference to guide pedagogical practice in order to make a difference to young children’s everyday experiences in early childhood settings providing education and care for children under the age of three. By using the Significant Events Approach to Children’s Rights developed for this study researchers and educators can capture what is important to young children, for understanding their rights as expressed through their interests, priorities and concerns without having to rely on language. Overall, this research presents a definition and articulation of child rights pedagogy, based on a5-level theoretical framework, and what it may entail in early childhood education, bringing to life the relationship between children’s rights and young children’s everyday experiences.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
January 2020Submitted
25 January 2020Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Children's rights, early childhood, pedagogy, England, Finland
Subjects: CAH15 - social sciences > CAH15-01 - sociology, social policy and anthropology > CAH15-01-03 - social policy
CAH22 - education and teaching > CAH22-01 - education and teaching > CAH22-01-01 - education
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > School of Education and Social Work
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2022 12:51
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2022 12:51

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