The rise of the discourse on children’s right of self-determination. The case study of Early Childhood Education and its construction of children as agents in education

Federico Farini [1] & Angela Scollan [2]


[1]  Education and Research; Centre for Psychology and Social Sciences, University of Northampton, UK,

[2]  Centre for Department of  Education, Middlesex University, UK,



This article discusses a study that explored the intellectual and ethical foundations of the discourses on children’s right of self-determination, starting with a critical examination of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989). Whilst the ambiguous position of children and children’s rights in society that underpins the UNCRC is acknowledged, the article argues that a shift towards the positioning of children’s as agents has been developing since the 1990s. For instance, this is demonstrated by the development of Early Childhood Education as a pedagogical discourse based centred on children’s right to play an agentic role in shaping their educational experience. As discussed in the second part of the article Early Childhood Education lends itself as an informative case-study for the development of a discourse on children self-determination towards a mainstream status. Early Childhood Education positions young children as agents who can make choice and can construct valid knowledge. Paraphrasing Freire’s description of critical pedagogy, in the discourse of Early Childhood Education the emphasis on children’s agency constructs a view of education from children, for children, for adults.

Keywords: Self-determination; United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child; Agency; Early Childhood Education; Pedagogical Discourse.



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