Preschool as an Arena of Gender Policies: The Examples of Sweden and Scotland

Dec. 25, 2009

Source: European Educational Research Journal, Volume 8 Number 4 (2009), pages 534‑549.

As many countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development have developed more universal provision for early childhood education during the last decades, preschool increasingly has become a central policy arena. Gender politics, especially with an aim to promote female labor market participation, but also policies addressing children and preschool staff, constitute one vital aspect.

This article analyses staff responsibilities for promoting gender equality in preschool in Sweden and Scotland.
These countries represent different welfare regimes, but also display common features, both influenced by tradition and recent transnational policies and discourses.

Based on national policy documents from 1970 to the early 2000s, this study shows that gender equality has continuously been brought up in the Swedish context since the 1970s, but entered the Scottish context at a later stage. Since the late 1990s, such questions have been addressed in both countries.

In both cases, teachers are constructed as role models who should promote certain gender values and provide children with opportunities.
The Swedish curriculum places more emphasis on similarities between girls and boys, while the Scottish counterpart tends to emphasize difference more, paying attention to boys and the need for male role models.
Scottish gender policies are influenced by the travelling discourse of ‘the boys’ underachievement crisis’, whereas Swedish gender policies in preschool demonstrate little of this.

Updated: Feb. 21, 2010