Social justice & children’s rights
A social justice lens highlights the complexity of identity, and the impact of social and political issues on the lives of children and their families. A social justice approach in early childhood supports children’s health, wellbeing, safety, and equitable access to education, and is driven by a strong focus on children’s rights.
Teaching for social justice enacts a vision of equity for all. A social justice approach considers questions related to gender, sexuality, race, culture, ability/disability, socioeconomic status, and the environment. It seeks to understand how different people and communities experience the world, particularly with consideration to the various aspects of identity and how these intersect and interact. This includes honouring children’s rights, recognising children’s cultures, being mindful of socioeconomic disadvantage and its impacts, and attending to questions of access, participation, privilege, and marginalisation.
Social justice is relevant in educational contexts and beyond. Creating, sustaining, and enacting a vision of social justice can serve teachers in understanding, caring for, and supporting all children to learn and thrive. This approach creates equitable and ethical spaces where all children can participate and relate to each other and their communities in thoughtful and compassionate ways, and examines the privilege apparent in educational paradigms and curricula.
There is a considerable (and growing) body of research that explores questions related to children, childhoods, and early childhood education from a social justice perspective. This research is largely qualitative in nature and often positions itself in opposition to many of the common, more developmental outcomes associated with much early childhood research.
Critique and action are essential to a social justice approach. Teachers may choose to engage in advocacy and activism related to social justice – for example, they can engage in anti-bias practices which acknowledge the gendered nature of early childhood and seek to address gendered issues in meaningful ways by challenging assumptions which stem from a binary and conventional view of gender. But simple actions such as developing caring methods of teaching, building and sustaining relationships, and continuing to learn about trauma-informed pedagogies, can also make a significant difference.
- How can we create safe spaces where all children and their families can participate freely and fully?
- How can we bring a social justice orientation to teaching and learning about the environment?
- What does it mean to decolonise education spaces?
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