Is preschool an institution for normalization and “Swedishness”?

Diversity in pre-school
Sven Persson
PhD, Associate Professor
Malmö University
Research Overview: Conditions for learning in preschool and pre-school classes (Swedish Research
Pre-school from a societal perspective.
Thesis: Parent’s images of children and child care.
Research Co-ordinator, Centre for Diversity in
Research on relational pedagogy in Centre for
Professional Studies.
Teacher Education, supervision of doctoral students.
Pre-school teacher.
Centre for
Diversity in Education
A Venue for Research and School Improvement
City of
Diversity in Education
The National
Agency for
(ex Diversity Week)
Support for
free of charge
Local Commissions
for Pedagogues
Centre for
Study Groups
Welcome to Malmö
– meetings and possibilities
Photo:X-RAY FOTO/Leif Johansson
• Malmö is the growth centre of the region
• 277,000 inhabitants
• Population expanding for the twenty-second year in
a row
• 26% of the city’s inhabitants were born abroad
• 169 nationalities represented
• Young population: 47% are under 35 years of age
Diversity - Meetings - Possibilities
Photo:X-RAY FOTO/Leif
Photo: X-RAY FOTO/Leif Johansson
Diversity – key to the
future of Malmö
• 70,600 of the city’s inhabitants were born
• There are 169 different nationalities in
• This multi-cultural society creates
opportunities for Malmö to assert itself in an
increasingly globalised economy
• Diversity creates conditions for a rich
cultural life
• Around 147 different languages are spoken
in Malmö, not including the Nordic
Pre-school: 1-5 years
Pre-school classes: 6 years
Compulsory school: 7 years
Children’s attendance in pre-school
50 % of one-year-old children
87 % of two-year-old children
96 % of five-year-old children
Curriculum for pre-school
Children should be aware of their own cultural
heritage and participating in the culture of
Children with a foreign background who
develop their first language should improve their
prospects of learning Swedish as well as
developing knowledge in other areas.
Multi-cultural identity
Pre-school should help to ensure that children
from national minorities and children with a
foreign background receive support in
developing a multi-cultural identity.
Support for children’s mother tongue
language in pre-school
Mother tongue teachers in 13
different languages are supporting
immigrant children in pre-school.
Individual training or in groups once
a week.
The Department for mother tongue
training in Malmö
Organises support for
mother tongue training
in preschool and school.
176 mother tongue
teachers, 28 of them in
Legal obligations for the
The municipatility is obliged to offer a place in
pre-school to children if their parents are
working or studying.
If the child is in need of special aids it should be
offered a place in pre-school.
The municipatility is obliged to offer a place in
pre-school when the child is 4 years old.
The average number of children
 15
children 1-3 years
 20 children 3-5 years
 Ratio children/teacher 5:1
 50% pre-school teachers
 50% child minders
Longitudinal research
International longitudinal research studies show
that children’s attendance at pre-school has
positive effects on their learning capacities in
In a Swedish longitudinal study, children, who
attended pre-school from an early age, were
more succesful than the control group in their
cognitive, emotional and social development
(Andersson, 1992).
Pre-school - a part of the welfare
Pre-school has always been a part of Swedish
family and social policy.
A new curriculum 1998.
Pre-school belongs to the educational system.
The aim is to integrate new pedagogical ideas
into compulsory school.
Research on quality and structural
factors in pre-school
ECERS (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale).
Quality is related to teacher’s and children’s interaction.
The teacher’s competence, education and knowledge
are the most important factors for good quality.
Working teams with a clear vision of pedagogical goals
are more succesful.
For children 1-3 years of age, the size of the group is
Children from low socio-economic backgrounds suffer
more if the teacher/children ratio is low.
Research on diversity and multicultural education in pre-school
The meaning of cultural diversity is transformed to a
discourse of difference.
Tendency to emphasize assimilation rather than
The image of being Swedish (Ronström, Runfors &
Wahlström, 1998).
A mono-lingual norm for multi-lingual children is seen
in individual development plans (Vallberg Roth &
Månsson, 2007).
Multi-cultural education is articulated as an objective or
a goal for the Other (Lunneblad, 2007).
An institution for normalisation?
Prescribed manuscript constructs the Other.
Ethnicity/culture as pure entities.
Children construct hybrid culture patterns as a
result of many different learning experiences.
Assimilation more than integration.
A brighter picture
Norell Beach (1998) shows that deliberately working
with teachers in pre-school can bridge prejudices and
stereotypical images about “the Other”.
Opportunities to reflect in groups and networks, with
guidance, leads to a more deliberately multi-cultural
education (Sjöwall, 1994).
Teachers or assistants with the same background as the
immigrant child, help the child to develop language and
a multi-cultural identity (Obondo, 2004).
Things are not what they seem to be
Potential of pre-school to be an important institution for
Policy documents and curricula support integration policy.
Organisation for mother tongue training in municipatilities helps
children to develop their first and second language.
Teachers in pre-school have to be well educated.
Support (reflection groups) and guidance for teachers is needed.
Immigrant children from families with low socio-economic
backgrounds are more vulnerable to structural changes.