Towards inclusive workforce development: socio-economic diversity in the Australian early childhood workforce and its implications for practice

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Jackson, Jennifer Louise (2018) Towards inclusive workforce development: socio-economic diversity in the Australian early childhood workforce and its implications for practice. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This study describes various aspects of socio-economic diversity in the Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce, and considers their implications for educators’ practice. Its main hypothesis is that educators’ qualifications are likely to be associated with other aspects of social advantage, and that this association may contribute to the relationship between educators’ qualifications and quality of practice that underpins ECEC workforce development policy in Australia. Drawing on the work of Pierre Bourdieu, the study conceptualises social advantage as comprising different levels of cultural, economic and social capital, which influence practice through the mechanism of habitus. The study uses existing data from three large-scale surveys to identify indicators that relate to capital and its effects for the Australian ECEC workforce, and describe their relationship with educators’ qualifications. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing is used to describe educators’ position in Australian society; the National ECEC Workforce Census to describe educators’ subjective experience of their work; and the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth to describe educators’ school and family backgrounds, and transitions. The results indicate that the effects of cultural capital (especially achievement at school) are associated with educators’ qualifications as Bourdieu’s theory predicts, as is educators’ access to economic capital. The study also identifies various strengths and challenges associated with social advantage for educators with different qualifications, which may have bearing on the quality of their practice. The study concludes with discussion of how these findings might inform support for educators’ professional growth, including by informing educators’ own collaborative professional reflection. The study aims to guide more inclusive approaches to ECEC workforce development, by looking beyond qualifications to the dynamics of social advantage that complicate ECEC workforce reform.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1301 Education Systems
Current > Division/Research > Centre for International Research on Education Systems (CIRES)
Keywords social advantage; early childhood education and care workforce; early childhood educators; Australia; workforce development policy; qualifications; habitus; cultural capital
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