Children’s agency in Grade R: A case for a child participation focus
This article addresses a theme that is slipping from the early childhood education agenda in South Africa, namely, child participation. It foregrounds different forms of agency as children participate in teacher-created learning spaces. This view is important to consider in the context of young children as active participants in learning, concerns about improving academic performance, working within the confines of a standardised curriculum, and high teacher control. A qualitative approach was undertaken with observations collected through video recordings as the main method of data collection. Fifteen children between the ages of five and six at three Grade R sites in urban Western Cape participated in the study. The findings suggest that the children function as agents in social processes, where teaching offers many possibilities for engagement with them. This often eludes teachers, who are pressurised to focus on indicators of learning in a prescriptive curriculum. The article concludes with a brief discussion on the development of the professional role of Grade R teachers.
Keywords: agency; children; Grade R; participation; South Africa; teachers