"We must meet parents at eye level": practicing "educational partnership" and doing difference in kindergarten
(University of Vienna)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in a public kindergarten in Vienna (Austria) this contribution explores how the programmatic ideal of "educational partnership" is translated into interactions between pedagogues and parents and becomes entangled with processes of inclusion and exclusion.
Paper long abstract:
While care for young children in Austria was formerly mostly relegated to the ‚private' domain, in recent years it is increasingly defined as a joint task of institutions and families. In this spirit, newly established guidelines for institutional child-care conceptualize the relationship between kindergarten and parents as 'educational partnership', suggesting reciprocity, shared interests, and equality. Combining an analysis of educational policies with insights from ethnographic fieldwork in a public kindergarten in Vienna, this paper examines how the programmatic ideal of partnership is translated into pedagogues' interactions with a highly diverse clientele. As I argue, the concept of "educational partnership" is constructed as a facilitator of "respect" for "diverse family constellations and values", but at the same time relies on a narrow normative vision of the 'good' family. In practice this contradiction feeds into complex constructions of difference and belonging, as pedagogues smoothly realize the ideal of "good cooperation" in their interactions with middle-class parents, while their relationships with 'other' parents - often labeled as "the difficult parents" - oscillate between support and its withdrawal. The analyzed cases illustrate that both ethnic categorizations as well as implicit cultural and gendered norms of 'good' parenting play a key role in the enactment and suspension of 'partnerships' between pedagogues and parents. I also illustrate, that these processes have significant implications for children's experiences of inclusion and exclusion in kindergarten and, moreover, affect their future whereabouts and school placement.
Pedagogies on the move: parenting interventions in transcultural and minoritarian contexts