Does Equal Access Matter?
Edited by Katja Repo, Maarit Alasuutari, Kirsti Karila and Johanna Lammi-Taskula
Chapter 3: For all, for free! Why do parents have to pay for early childhood education but not for primary education?
This chapter aims to understand the different payment policies that exist for primary education and early childhood education and care by exploring their respective institutional histories. Primary education was the first public service in history to be provided for all. This was simply based on elite interests. Primary education would produce more efficient workers and soldiers and more dutiful citizens without undermining class society. Infant schools were established in the nineteenth century to support the care of small children as working-class mothers were unable to meet children’s needs. Well-off families, by contrast, could put their children in kindergarten and so promote their wholesome development. Later on, the twentieth century saw the huge growth of day care, which combined the interests of mothers, employers and children. Early childhood education and care is a key tool for improving human skills and competencies and reducing the inequalities associated with birth. At a time when human qualifications are gaining increasing importance, payments for early childhood education are surely becoming outdated. Children’s day care may be charged but early education not.
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