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Publication Detail
'Revolution', Democracy and Education: An Investigation of Early Childhood Education in Portugal
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Sousa D
  • Date awarded:
  • Supervisors:
    Morris P
  • Awarding institution:
    UCL Institute of Education
  • Date Submitted:
  • Keywords:
    Democracy, Early Childhood Education, Portugal, Revolution
Education systems have long been viewed as playing a key role in developing and maintaining both democratic political systems and the promotion of democratic values. This is acutely the case in Portugal where, in 1974, after nearly half a century of dictatorship, ‘democracy’ emerged as a central aspiration. It shaped all levels of education, and Early Childhood Education (ECE) specifically has been influenced by the strong desire of the government to create a democratic society. Even though this was an important political project for the government, the implementation of policy was deliberately left to providers. This allowed for and encouraged a diversity of provisions/practices in ECE. The purpose of this study is threefold: firstly, to explain how democracy emerged within Portuguese history to influence all aspects of society; secondly to understand how democracy is manifested in education policy; and thirdly to explore how it is enacted in different ECE school settings. This involved two levels of analysis: national (state) and local (schools and classrooms). Three different schools (public, IPSS (charity), and private) have been researched and the data collection methods included: interviews of policymakers, ECE experts and educators; analysis of key documents at the national, organisational, and classroom levels and observations in the three schools. The research followed predominantly a critical socio-constructivist and interpretivist approach. In terms of policy the study found that democracy has, for a long time, served a symbolic function, acting as a ‘floating signifier’ that provided a ‘thick narrative of modernisation’ and symbol of ‘hope’ for the future. At the level of intentions, the three types of school conceived democracy differently in ways which reflected their diverse ideologies/missions. The analysis indicated that the forms in which democracy was enacted reflected the different foci of the different schools. It also illustrated that in these schools democracy was only evident when democratic spaces were created by individual educators. As a result, three different pedagogic styles which demonstrate the enactment of democracy in ECE classrooms have been identified.
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