In this presentation, Professor Heidi Harju-Luukkainen (Nord University, Norway) and Professor Susanne Garvis (Swinburne University) will share insights from the Nordic countries regarding ECEC. This presentation will focus on children’s possibilities to maintain and develop their languages in the Nordic countries as well as a focus on immigrant families equal possibilities to ECEC in Sweden is discussed.
In part 1, building a linguistically strong ECEC across the Nordic countries is explored. In all of the Nordic countries we have seen a rapid increase in the number of different languages spoken in early childhood education contexts. Being able to speak different languages enables wider communication and understanding across countries and people. However, there is a variance in how different Nordic countries support early language learning, which may reflect ideological differences toward languages and language learning. Questions regarding how policies are enabling language development in ECEC are discussed.
In part 2 of the presentation, the potential of Nordic early childhood to address inequality is addressed, where Sweden is presented as a case study. While Sweden is known for a strong focus on quality, access and affordability in ECEC, problems are beginning to emerge, and social cohesion is challenged. Within Sweden childhood poverty is growing and around 14% of children aged 1 to 5 years do not attend preschool. The enrolment rates of children from a foreign background differ from those with a domestic background. Children who stay at home are usually in immigrant communities where the foreign-born mother may have low levels of education and may never access preschool.
Prof Susanne Garvis is a Professor of Education and Chair of the Department of Education at Swinburne University of Technology. Prof Heidi Harju-Luukkainen holds a Ph.D. in education, special education teacher qualification and a qualification in leadership and management from Finland.