The Capability Approach and Early Childhood Education Curricula

An Investigation into Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices

by Antoanneta Potsi (Author)
©2016 Thesis 198 Pages


This book explores the Capability Approach (CA) as an alternative critical lens through which to regard early childhood education (ECE) curricula. The CA framework is a counter narrative to the narrow instrumentalism that reduces education to a mere process of academic skills acquisition for a future workplace. Primarily the book draws on the example of the Greek case. Criticizing the «bit role» that the front-line implementers play in the curriculum design and planning procedure it argues that efficient curriculum development can only occur when a zymosis between the pedagogues’ beliefs, practical experience, and theoretical knowledge is accomplished. Evidence shows that beliefs define the educators’ practices into the pedagogical context. The issues discussed are unlikely to be confined to this country alone and will have resonances on other contexts.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Developing a common language
  • 1.1 Greek educational system
  • 1.2 Early Childhood Services
  • 1.3 Pre-primary school (nipiagogeio)
  • 1.4 Qualifications of pre-primary teachers
  • 1.5 The gender loop in the profession
  • 1.6 Glossary of terms
  • Chapter 2: Literature Review
  • 2.1 Evolution of Early Childhood Education
  • 2.2 Recent Developments in Early Childhood Education
  • 2.3 Cross-Thematic Curriculum Framework and the Phenomenon of Schoolification of the Pre-Primary School
  • 2.4 Teachers Beliefs
  • 2.5 Research on Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices
  • 2.6 The Capability Approach
  • 2.7 The Capability Approach in Early Childhood Education
  • Chapter 3: Research Model
  • 3.1 Research Problems
  • 3.2 Research Questions and Hypotheses
  • 3.3 Research Model Constructs
  • 3.4 Research Aims
  • Chapter 4: Methodology
  • 4.1 The Study
  • 4.2 Population and Sample
  • 4.3 Questionnaire Development
  • 4.4 Pilot Study
  • 4.5 Administration of the Questionnaire and Main Data Collection Process
  • 4.6 Psychometric Properties
  • 4.6.1 Reliability
  • 4.6.2 Validity
  • Content Validity
  • Construct Validity
  • Factorial Validity of Subscales
  • 4.7 Statistical Analysis
  • Chapter 5: The Empirical Findings
  • 5.1 Descriptive Analysis of the Main Research Variables
  • 5.2 Correlation Analysis of the Key Variables
  • 5.3 Beliefs: Second-order two-factor model
  • 5.4 Interrelation of the Measurement Models
  • 5.5 Structural Regression Model
  • Chapter 6: Discussion
  • 6.1 Summary
  • 6.2 Discussion of the Main Findings
  • 6.3 Limitations of the Study
  • 6.4 Future Implications
  • 6.5 Recommendations
  • References
  • Appendix: Questionnaire in Greek and in English

List of Tables

List of Figures

← 12 | 13 →


Early childhood education and care has come to the forefront of social policies in the past decades due to the increasing interest of scientists, policymakers, politicians, and economists. Strengthening early childhood education and care are regarded not only as approaches that help reconcile work and family life, but also promote the socio-economic integration of vulnerable groups in society. A short look at the results of well-known intervention studies with cost-benefit analyses such as the “Chicago Child–Parent Centres” (Reynolds, 1997), “High Scope Perry Preschool Program” (Schweinhart & Weikart, 1997), or “Carolina Abecedarian Projects” (Campbell et al, 2002) leave no room for doubt regarding the positive long-term effects of preschool programs on children’s cognitive and social development – especially for those living in poverty or at risk. The rationale behind public investment in such programmes is the expectation of a demonstrable and calculable return in the form of student performance, a quasi-contract in which preschools receive funding in exchange for delivering specified outcomes (Dahlberg & Moss, 2005). Influential international organizations such as UNESCO and the World Bank were also involved in public and academic discussions. Consequently, early childhood education and care programmes have grown more academically demanding over the last 20 years. As a bridge between the home and the school, early childhood education and care have come to be seen as serving a number of critical functions in chlidhood development, including preparation for academic learning, remediation for the effects of poverty, socialization, and academic training in itself.

The educational reports issued by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) have had a significant impact on policy measures for early childhood education and care in the European Union. At the Barcelona summit in 2002, EU member states adopted targets to provide childcare to at least 90 percent of children aged between 3 years and the nation’s mandatory school age, as well as to at least 33 percent of children under the age of 3 years by 2010. Among the various EU benchmarks for 2020 that have been set for education, the goal is to have at least 95 percent of children (from the age of 4 to compulsory school age) participate in early childhood education. Ensuring suitable childcare arrangements is seen as an essential policy provision as an essential step towards achieving equal opportunities for women and men in the workplace, and accordingly, is explicitly included in the European Employment Strategy. In 2006, the issue of high-quality education became one of the ← 13 | 14 → predominant strategic objectives in the broader socio-political landscape of the European Union: “Pre-primary education has the highest returns in terms of the social adaptation of children. Member states should invest more in pre-primary education as an effective means to establish the basis for further learning, preventing school drop-out, increasing equity of outcomes and overall skill levels” (Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, 2009).

As a member of the European Union, this broader sequence of transnational policy decisions had an impact on early childhood education in Greece. Among the multiple changes that have been occurred in the field of early childhood education and care in Greece, including the curriculum reform of 2001, have been the subject of considerable attention. The curriculum has been criticised as leading to the so-called ‘schoolification’ of pre-primary school by placing greater weight on performance-based academic objectives (Chrysafidis, 2006; Doliopoulou, 2002, 2003), rather than on capabilities objectives, which focus on the intrinsic value of children’s abilities. Schoolification is defined as the move to shift primary school academic activities into pre-primary programs, which tends to makepre-primary school a kind of preparatory stage for children’s success in primary school. Indeed, this trend of ‘schoolifying’ pre-primary education is stated clearly (Fragkos, 2002; Sofou, 2010; Tsafos & Sofou, 2010). The establishment of the all-day pre-primary school aiming at the upgrading of pre-primary education as well as the full preparation of children for primary school has been a government law (l. 2525) in Greece since 1997. Accordingly, aspects such as play-oriented experiences, social recognition, and socio-emotional growth have been ascribed less importance.

Evidence suggests, however, that the official curriculum may only be loosely connected to what teachers actually teach in the classroom (Cohen et al., 1990, cited in Lee Stevenson & Baker, 1991). According to Dahlberg and Moss (2005), although regulatory frameworks – such as standards, curricula, or guidelines – provide external norms that may be reinforced through processes of inspection, practitioners also create their own internal norms, and these are indeed more important in determining their implementation. It is worth mentioning here that within the Greek landscape of policy reform, those actually implementing the reforms in the classroom were the “bit players”1 in the overall design and planning procedures. ← 14 | 15 →


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (April)
teachers' beliefs educational policy reforms Capability Approach Curriculum development
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 198 pp., 1 coloured ill., 15 tables, 12 graphs

Biographical notes

Antoanneta Potsi (Author)

Antoanneta Potsi holds a PhD from the Research School «Education and Capabilities» of the University of Bielefeld. She studied Early Childhood Education, worked as a research fellow at the University of Wuppertal, and has didactic and practical experience in Germany and Greece. Her research interests are childhood studies, social policy, inequality studies, and the capability approach as a justice approach.


Title: The Capability Approach and Early Childhood Education Curricula
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198 pages