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Institutional stickiness and ideational resistance to paradigm change: Canada and early childhood education and care (ECEC) policy

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Paper prepared for presentation at the Canadian Political Science Association Annual Meeting
White, Linda A.
Publication Date: 
16 May 2011

Excerpts from the presentation:

This chapter argues that transformations in ECEC policies signal the emergence of new ideas about desirable ECEC policies but those variations across liberal welfare states-Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States -in ECEC provision and funding indicate that the emergence of a new ECEC paradigm in these jurisdictions is not yet complete.

The second part of the chapter examines the curious outlier of Canada. While other liberal welfare states are increasing significantly their ECEC investment in some manner, Canada, outside of Quebec, has remained stubbornly resistant. In seeking explanations for English Canadian resistance to the new alternate paradigm, the chapter highlights the institutional and ideational barriers encountered by political actors supportive of new ECEC ideas. Federalism posed an institutional constraint when provincial political officials were unconvinced of the need for new policies. Ideational barriers included a lack of scientific and economic consensus on the necessity of ECEC programs to address demographic, labour market, and educational challenges. As well, traditional norms regarding women's roles in the family remain powerfully persuasive politically and help explain societal resistance to non-parental forms of care for young children. The chapter thus highlights both the potential for paradigmatic change as well as the points of resistance in ECEC policy.

Entered Date: 
15 Nov 2011
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