Towards a more participatory fulfilment of young children's rights in early learning settings: unpacking universalist ideals in India, Scotland and the EU

Caralyn Blaisdell, John M. Davis, Vinnarasan Aruldoss, Lynn McNair

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While investment in early learning may seem to offer a pathway to the fulfilment of children’s rights, in this chapter we argue that the how of that fulfilment is often deeply problematic, particularly in terms of participation rights. Drawing on empirical projects conducted in Scotland, India, and the EU, we offer examples of children’s lived experience within pedagogies informed by universalist ideals. Regimes of standardisation and universalism, though claiming to improve the quality of early experiences, do not address the lived, culturally sensitive reality of rights for children, families and caregivers. In fact, children’s participation rights may particularly suffer when standardised solutions are imposed.

Throughout the chapter, we argue that children’s right to education is not a neutral endeavour. Instead, participation rights are lived by children in relational contexts of power, bodily and moral discipline, resistance, and reflexivity. We hope that by making these tensions and successes visible, others will find inspiration on a journey toward a more participatory fulfilment of children’s rights in early learning spaces, that perceives children to be leaders of their own learning and creative beings who can provide solutions to their own everyday life issues.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge International Handbook of Young Children's Rights
EditorsJane Murray, Beth Blue Swadener, Kylie Smith
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2019


  • young children's rights
  • early learning
  • India
  • Scotland
  • EU

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