London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Infected with neo-liberalism: The new landscape of early childhood settings in Iceland

Author(s) Dýrfjörd, K.  
Publisher London: CiCe  
Year 2012  
Editor P. Cunningham & N. Fretwell (eds.) Creating Communities: Local, National and Global  
Age group -  
Over the last few decades neo-liberalism has been growing as a political ideology, globally as well as nationally. It has become the ruling, and at the same time hidden, hegemony of many societies. In Iceland the manifestation of neo-liberalism is mostly noticeable in discourses related to the right of the market for among other things; deregulation, accountability, choice (for example of schools), and privatisation, both in the school system as well as in wider society. The aim of this article is to explore and make visible the influence of neo-liberalism on the Icelandic preschool system. Among the influential forces in Icelandic society is the Iceland Chamber of Commerce which published in 2006 a futuristic free market vision of, among other things, how to run the preschool system. These ideas will be scrutinised in connection with Hursh’s (2005) frame on neo-liberalism in the American and English school systems. The frame points toward certain key concepts to look for as part of public discourse on schools. One concept, for example, is school choice. In the paper a special attention is given to this concept and its connection to the McDonaldization (Ritzer and Goodman, 2003) of preschool education in Iceland. The main conclusions are that neo-liberalism has had an evident influence on the public structure of pre-schools, that neo-liberal ideology has been a constructive force with strong indicators showing that in the private sector McDonaldization is already a reality. Keywords: neo-liberalism, democracy, preschool, early childhood education, educational policy, administration

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