Gender in early childhood education

Rachel Chapman, Melbourne Polytechnic, Australia(

Background: This paper discusses a research study that examined early childhood educators’ perceptions and understandings of gender identities, and their role within early childhood settings. Additionally, it examined the ways in which early childhood educators draw on the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) to support their work in a context that positions childhood gender identity as contentious.

Aim: To explore early childhood educators’ perceptions of gender and their experiences when working with children in this area.

Method: This research study was based upon qualitative phenomenological research methods. The participants consisted of 12 early childhood educators who were working in kindergarten and long day care settings in Melbourne, Australia, and two of the developers of the EYLF. Thematic analysis and feminist post-structuralist discourse analysis were used to identify the discourses deployed in the participants’ responses.

Results: The research identified discourses and contexts that may constrain or enable expansive work around gender in early childhood settings. Some of the constraining discourses identified in this research focused on the innocence of children and fears about work on gender being considered contentious. Enabling discourses were identified that could build and support pro-diversity spaces and contexts in early childhood.

Conclusions: Gender is a critical area that needs to be addressed further in policy and practice. Educators require further support. This research can be used to shape future policy frameworks and resources to support educators. 

Implications for children: This presentation will talk about the toys you play with at childcare and explain the best way for teachers to make sure that things are fair so that all children can play with everything.

Implications for families: This presentation will share research that will help educators provide an inclusive environment for your children that allows them to explore and express their gender without limitations.

Implications for practitioners: This presentation will provide suggestions to consider when designing holistic gender inclusive environments in early childhood education.

Key words: gender, professionals’ voices, workforce issues, policy, EYLF, wellbeing, qualitative methods, vulnerable communities, theory, feminist theories, social justice

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: