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Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus
Master i barnehagepedagogikk
This thesis is a study of children’s participation in their everyday life in a Norwegian kindergarten. The focus is on the youngest children in a Norwegian kindergarten, the children aged from one to three years. My approach is inspired both from post-structural, phenomenological and hermeneutical work, and is therefore eclectic. We often say that we live in a post- modern world. This has also a great influence on newer science. In post-modern science the researcher does not apply for The Universal Truth, neither does this thesis. Instead I present one possible approach to the implication of the youngest children’s right to participation in their everyday life in kindergarten. The methodology is ethnographic inspired. Video films of 14 dressing-situations with a selection of five different children and four different adults, is this thesis’s major data, but my fieldnotes are also equally relevant. On January 1 this year, children’s right to participate in their everyday in the kindergarten was established in the Norwegian law (Barnehageloven). Already in 1991 the UN convention of the Rights of the child was ratified by the Norwegian government. Norwegian children had statutory right to participation already then. This indicates that since 1991 they have had the right to freely express their own views in all matters that affect them (UN, 1989:20). The framework for the Norwegian kindergartens contents and duties (Rammeplan for barnehagens innhold og oppgaver) has also been rewritten. The latter was finished in March and will come into effect on August 1, 2006 (KD, 2006a). This framework has an article called “Children’s Participation”, which goes thoroughly into how children’s right to participation should be implicated in the everyday life in the kindergarten. In my thesis, I discuss as to, what kind of challenges the new law and framework might bring for the Norwegian kindergartens with focus on the children’s right to participation. My theoretical perspective is based up on sociological theory of children’s rights, newer concepts of the child, and Sterns (2003) perspectives on intersubjective relations. During the discourse of children’s participation in their everyday life in kindergarten I ask the following questions: How do children express their intentions? How is shared attention between adult and child essential for children’s participation? What kind of importance do the children’s language skills have in relation to their participation in the everyday life? In the analysis I concentrate on how shared attention, shared intentions and shared feelings occur, as a result of the cooperation between a child and an adult when getting the child dressed for playing outside. And I discuss what kind of conditions this creates for children’s right to participation. I see that shared focus is often central for how the caregiver is able to approach children’s perspectives, and from there take action. Not understood in terms, of whether children should decide everything, but that the children know that the caregiver understands her or his intentions. I argue that decision is one aspect of children’s participation, but not the only aspect. I also discuss that it is not enough to listen to the children’s oral expressions. One should go beyond listening and pay attention to the children’s different kinds of expressions. The children’s verbal language skills are, in my observations, often essential for the children to be able to participate, and not just to be part of the decisions taken by adults. Adults often want children to listen. However, I see that latter are often better at listening to the former than the opposite. To take children’s right to participation seriously I find that the adults have to be attentive to what occupies children in their everyday life, and maybe less occupied with their own projects. Children’s right to participation can not merely be worked out by practising some kind of method or frame program. It is just as important that the practitioners have to be reflexive with regard to their conceptions of the child, and last but not at least that the adults value children’s own perspectives and experiences.
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