Imaginaries of ECEC: A comparison of policies of access in early childhood education in Brazil, Finland, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Nepal, and Serbia




policy, comparative research, preschool


Increasing access to ECEC has been on the agendas of international organizations and many countries in different parts of the world. Despite the clear global interconnectivity, this article shows that contextual factors are essential to understand educational policy developments. The study examines reforms related to policies of access to ECEC in seven countries. Brazil, Finland, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Nepal, and Serbia. We show how access policies plug into the understanding of the role of ECEC as producing future citizens. Even though the main idea of ECEC’s role in developing future citizens is present in each national context, it takes different forms: the roles frame access policies as a way to strengthen either human capital via focusing on learning and skill formation, and/or the national identity of future citizens. They materialize in differing ways, for example, as coercive legislative requirements, fee policies, and knowledge production schemes. In addition, national access policies adopt different relations to the policies of international  organizations, reflecting the socio-political context of the country. We argue that the concept of the imaginary is useful in allowing us to examine the interplay between the semiotic and non-semiotic aspects of policy. To further unravel the complexity inherent in such policies in terms of their local diversity, we suggest the usefulness of case studies and the examination of local-level policies in their full variety instead of only national ones, as these might be fruitful avenues for future research. 


Adriany, V. (2018). The internationalisation of early childhood education: Case study from selected kindergartens in Bandung, Indonesia. Policy Futures in Education, 16(1), 92– 10.1177/1478210317745399

Anderson-Levitt, K. M. (2003). A world culture of schooling? In K. M. Anderson-Levitt (Eds.), Local meanings, global schooling. Anthropology and World Culture Theory (pp. 1–26). Palgrave Macmillan.

Anttonen, A., & Sipilä, J. (2000). Suomalaista sosiaalipolitiikkaa. Vastapaino.

Alasuutari, P., & Alasuutari, M. (2012). The domestication of early childhood education plans in Finland. Global Social Policy, 12(2), 129–148.

Alasuutari, P., & Rasimus, A. (2009). Use of the OECD in justifying policy reforms: the case of Finland. Journal of power, 2(1), 89–109.

Altbach, P. G. (2004). Globalisation and the university: Myths and realities in an unequal world. Tertiary Education & Management, 10(1), 3–25.

Bacchi, C. (2012). Introducing the ‘What’s the problem represented to be?’ approach. In A. Bletsas & C. Beasley (Eds.), Engaging with Carol Bacchi: Strategic interventions and exchanges (pp. 21–24). The University of Adelaide Press.

Bennett, J. (2008). Benchmarks for early childhood services in OECD countries (Innocenti working paper, 2008/2). Florence, UNICEF Innocenti Research Center.

Campbell-Barr, V., & Bogatić, K. (2017). Global to local perspectives of early childhood education and care. Early Child Development and Care, 187(10), 1461–1470.

Campbell-Barr, V., & Nygård, M. (2014). Losing sight of the child? Human capital theory and its role for early childhood education and care policies in Finland and England since the mid-1990s. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 15(4), 346–359.

Carney, S. (2009). Negotiating policy in an age of globalization: Exploring educational ‘policyscapes’ in Denmark, Nepal, and China. Comparative education review, 53(1), 63–88.

Carney, S., Rappleye, J., & Silova, I. (2012). Between faith and science: World culture theory and comparative education. Comparative Education Review, 56(3), 366–393.

Centeno, V. G. (2017). The OECD's educational agendas: Framed from above, fed from below, determined in interaction. A Study on the recurrent education agenda. Peter Lang.

Centeno, V. G., Kauko, J., & Candido, H. H. (2018). Quality assurance and evaluation through Brazilian lenses: An exploration into the validity of umbrella concepts. Comparative Education, 54(2), 132–158.

Deem, R. (2001). Globalisation, new managerialism, academic capitalism and entrepreneurialism in universities: Is the local dimension still important? Comparative Education, 37(1), 7–20.

Drezner, D. W. (2001). Globalization and policy convergence. International studies review, 3(1), 53–78.

Enders, J. (2004). Higher education, internationalisation, and the nation-state: recent developments and challenges for governance theory. Higher Education, 47(3), 367.

European Commission (2019). Key data on early childhood education and care in Europe – 2019 edition. Eurydice report. Publications Office of the European Union.

Farnsworth, K., & Irving, Z. (Eds.). (2015). Social policy in times of austerity: global economic crisis and the new politics of welfare. Policy Press.

Ferrando, F. (2013). Posthumanism, transhumanism, antihumanism, metahumanism, and new materialisms. Existenz, 8(2), 26–32.

Jessop, B. (2008). A cultural political economy of competitiveness and its implications for higher education. In n B. Jessop, N. Fairclough & R. Wodak (Eds.), Education and the knowledge-based economy in Europe (pp. 11–39). Brill.

Jessop, B. (2010). Cultural political economy and critical policy studies. Critical policy studies, 3(3–4), 336–356.

Jones, P. W. (2007). Education and world order. Comparative Education, 43(3), 325-337.

Kampmann, J. (2013). Societalisation of early childhood education and services. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 21(1), 1–4.

Karila, K. (2012). A Nordic perspective on early childhood education and care policy. European Journal of Education, 47(4), 584–595.

Katolikus közoktatási intézmények statisztikai adatai (2021). Katolikus közoktatási intézmények statisztikai adatai. Katolikus Pedagógiai Intézet. Accessed May 3rd, 2022.

Kauko, J., Centeno, V., Piattoeva, N., Candido, H., Gurova, G., Medvedeva, A., Santos, I., Suominen, O., & Zhou, X. (2018). Layers of reflectivity in comparative research. In J. Kauko, R. Rinne & T. Takala (Eds.), Politics of quality in education. A Comparative study of Brazil, China, and Russia (pp. 18–43). Routledge.

Kuhlman Jr., M (1999). Educação infantil e currículo. Educação infantil pós-LDB: rumos e desafios. Campinas: Autores Associados, 51–65.

Kuhlman Jr., M. (2000). Educando a infância brasileira. In E. M. Lopes, L. M. &Filho, & C. G. Veiga (Eds.), 500 anos de educação no Brasil (pp. 469–496). Autêntica.

Lappalainen, S., Lahelma, E., & Mietola, R. (2015). Problematizing evaluative categorizations: collaborative and multisited interpretations of constructions of normality in Estonia and Finland. In P. Smeyers, D. Bridges, N.C. Burbules, M. Griffiths (Eds.), International handbook of interpretation in educational research (pp. 843–864). Springer.

Lightfoot-Rueda, T., Peach, R. L., & Leask, N. (Eds.). (2016). Global perspectives on human capital in early childhood education: Reconceptualizing theory, policy, and practice. Springer.

Lundgren, U.P. (1990). Educational policymaking, decentralization and evaluation. In M. Granheim, M. Kogan & U. P. Lundgren (Eds.), Evaluation as policymaking: introducing evaluation into a national decentralized educational system (pp. 23–41). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Mahon, R. (2016). Early childhood education and care in global discourses. In K. Mundy, A. Green, B. Lingard & A. Verger (Eds.), Handbook of global education policy (pp. 224–240). Wiley Blackwell.

Mahon, R., Anttonen, A., Bergqvist, C., Brennan, D., & Hobson, B. (2012). Convergent care regimes? childcare arrangements in Australia, Canada, Finland and Sweden. Journal of European social policy, 22(4), 419–431.

Millei, Z. (2011). Governing through early childhood curriculum,’ the child,’ and ’community’ ideologies of socialist Hungary and neoliberal Australia. European Education, 43(1), 33–55.

Millei, Z. (2015). Governing the brain: New narratives of human capital in Australian early childhood education. In T. Lightfoot-Rueda & R. Lynn Peach (Eds.), Global perspectives on human capital in early childhood education. Reconceptualizing theory, policy, and practice (pp. 47–70). Palgrave Macmillan.

Millei, Z. (2020). Children and nationalism. In D. T. Cook (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of children and childhood studies (pp. 369–373). Sage.

Millei, Z., & Lappalainen, S. (2020). Learning nation in early childhood education: Multi-sited comparison between pedagogies of nation in Australia and Hungary. European Education, 52(1), 33–47.

Miškeljin, L., & Sharmahd, N. (2018). Diversity and diversification in ECEC practices. Considerations from Serbia. European Journal of Education, 53, 254–263. 10.1111/ejed.12266

Mundy, K., & Menashy, F. (2014). The World Bank and private provision of schooling: A look through the lens of sociological theories of organizational hypocrisy. Comparative Education Review, 58(3), 401–427.

Nyby, J., Nygård, M., Autto, J., & Kuisma, M. (2017). Freedom of choice, gender equality, or employment promotion? Finnish party positions on childcare in the light of election manifestos 2015. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 39(3), 279–297.

Oberhuemer, P., Schreyer, I., & Neuman, M. J. (2010). Professionals in early childhood education and care systems: European profiles and perspectives. Verlag Barbara Budrich.

Ozga, J., & Jones, R. (2006). Travelling and embedded policy: The case of knowledge transfer. Journal of education policy, 21(1), 1–17.

Paananen, M. (2017). Imaginaries of early childhood education [Doctoral dissertation, University of Helsinki]. Helsinki Studies in Education, 3.

Pangastuti, Y. (2020). Expansion of early childhood in Indonesia: Finding voices, telling stories. Unpublished thesis, University of Auckland.

Penn, H. (2011). Travelling policies and global buzzwords: How international non-governmental organizations and charities spread the word about early childhood in the global South. Childhood, 18(1), 94–113.

Rinne, R., Kallo, J., & Hokka, S. (2004). Too eager to comply? OECD education policies and the Finnish response. European Educational Research Journal, 3(2), 454–485.

Rinne, R., & Ozga, J. (2011). Europe and the global: The role of the OECD in education politics. In J. Ozga, P. Dahler-Larsen, C. Segerholm, & H. Simola (Eds.), Fabricating Quality in Education. Data and governance in Europe (pp. 66–75). Routledge.

Rostas, I., & Kovacs, A. (2021). The EU Framework and its implementation in Hungary. Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 29(1), 60–72.

Rutanen, N., de Souza Amorim, K., Colus, K. M., & Piattoeva, N. (2014). What is best for the child? Early childhood education and care for children under 3 years of age in Brazil and in Finland. International Journal of Early Childhood, 46(2), 123–141.

Ruutiainen, V., Alasuutari, M., & Karila, K. (2020). Rationalising public support for private early childhood education and care: The case of Finland. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 41(1), 32–47.

Santos, J., & Junior, L. (2017). Educação infantil 20 anos de primeira etapa da educação básica e os desafios do financiamento. Revista Contemporânea de Educação, 12(24), 261–284.

Schriewer, J. (1990). The method of comparison and the need for externalization: Methodological criteria and sociological concepts. In J. Schriewer & B. Holmes (Eds.), Theories and methods in comparative education (pp. 25–83). P. Lang.

Sousa, D., & Moss, P. (2022). Introducing the special issue on ‘Comparative studies in early childhood education: past, present and future’. Comparative Education, 58(3), 287–296.

Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2012). The global/local nexus in comparative policy studies: Analysing the triple bonus system in Mongolia over time. Comparative Education, 48(4), 455–471.

Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2014). Comparison and context: The interdisciplinary approach to the comparative study of education. Current issues in comparative education, 16(2), 34–42.

Steiner-Khamsi, G., & Stolpe, I. (2006). Educational import: Local encounters with global forces in Mongolia. Palgrave Macmillan US.

Sum, N.-L., & Jessop, B. (2013). Towards a cultural political economy: putting culture in its place in political economy. Edward Elgar.

Teixeira, P., Amaral, A., & Rosa, M. J. (2003). Mediating the economic pulses: The international connection in Portuguese higher education. Higher Education Quarterly, 57(2), 181–203.

Teszenyi, E., & Hevey, D. (2015). Age group, location or pedagogue: Factors affecting parental choice of kindergartens in Hungary. Early Child Development and Care, 185(11–12), 1961–1977.

UNICEF. (2018). Evaluation of the national early childhood development program: Final report. Oxford Policy Management.

UNICEF. (2020). The 2019 Serbia multiple indicator cluster survey (MICS) and 2019 Serbia Roma Settlements MICS. Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia and UNICEF in Serbia.

Waldow, F. (2014). Conceptions of justice in the examination systems of England, Germany, and Sweden: A look at safeguards of fair procedure and possibilities of appeal. Comparative Education Review, 58(2), 322–343.

West, A., & Nikolai, R. (2013). Welfare regimes and education regimes: Equality of opportunity and expenditure in the EU (and US). Journal of Social Policy, 42(3), 469–493.

White, L. A. (2017). Constructing policy change: Early childhood education and care in liberal welfare states. University of Toronto Press.

Yulindrasari, H., & Djoehaeni, H. (2019). Rebo nyunda: Is it decolonising early childhood education in Bandung, Indonesia? Journal of Pedagogy, 10(1), 57–75.






Peer-reviewed articles