Original Research - Special Collection: Early Childhood Development in Theory and Practice

Towards circles of care and education: Exploring understandings of quality in early childhood development

Lucy R. O'Keeffe, Susan L. Southwood, Nicci Hayes
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 12, No 1 | a1061 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v12i1.1061 | © 2022 Lucy R. O’Keeffe, Susan L. Southwood, Nicci Hayes | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 July 2021 | Published: 23 May 2022

About the author(s)

Lucy R. O'Keeffe, Centre for Social Development, Faculty of Education, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa
Susan L. Southwood, Faculty of Education, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa
Nicci Hayes, Centre for Social Development, Faculty of Education, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Early childhood development (ECD) is increasingly being recognised as vital for the care and education of our children, particularly in countries such as South Africa where vast social disparities have a significant influence on development and well-being.

Aim: This study aimed to explore and develop understandings of quality in early childhood care and education in a particular setting.

Setting: The setting of this community research project is a small rural town in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The project is facilitated by a non-governmental organisation affiliated with a university in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, working with participants from two neighbourhood hubs. This study coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Located in a social constructionist paradigm, the research methodology may be described as participatory, polyphonic and appreciative. Responses from simple, positively constructed questions, framed by dimensions of an ecological systems model, were interrogated through a multilayered process of content analysis.

Results: Analysis of the data led to a range of themes and evidence of significant role players, around quality ECD. These were developed into two simple frameworks, capturing conceptual and contextual aspects of quality ECD: ‘Quality Early Childhood Development’ and ‘Circles of Care and Education’.

Conclusion: The juxtaposition of the conceptual and contextual frames is offered as a simple, yet comprehensive, tool to scaffold ongoing research and support further development of quality ECD practice.


Keywords

early childhood development; quality; social constructionism; participatory; polyphonic; appreciative; circles of care and education

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