Learning at the Centre—Under What Terms?: How does the convergence of care and education terminology in the Irish early childhood sector present an opportunity for learning at the centre of policy?
The early childhood sector in Ireland is in a period of transition. Through recent government discourse, the terminology used to describe the sector is quite diverse: childcare, early childhood education, early childhood care and education, early childhood development and care are all used. Do words matter? This paper provides a critical analysis of this terminology within national policy and the impact on placing learning at the centre of policy. Applying Ranson’s presupposition of the learning society - learning at the centre of polity (1994; 1998) - it is argued that there is an opportunity for the Irish government to place learning at the centre of early childhood policy, building a foundation for a learning society. However, the convergence of care and education terms shifts policy discourse from economic benefits of the sector to placing children at the centre. By placing learning at the centre of policy - that is, learning for stakeholders - progression and advancement of the sector will be enabled, having a positive impact on outcomes for children.