The book Beyond Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (written by Gunilla Dahlberg, Alan Pence and Peter Moss) is about to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its initial publication. It argued that the concept of ‘quality’ was problematic, that its use should be a choice and not taken for granted, and that alternatives were available. In short, the issue was not ‘What is Quality?’, but ‘Do we choose to work with the concept of Quality?’.
Yet despite the book being successful in some respects – three English-language editions, translated into 11 languages, over 2600 citations – early childhood education and care has not got beyond quality; the term remains ubiquitous and rarely questioned, the ‘age of quality’ is still with us.
Starting by restating the book’s argument, in this lecture, Peter Moss will consider why the early childhood field continues to talk so much about ‘quality’, arguing it is a product of the neoliberal hegemony with its technical and managerial preoccupations. But, he will further argue, there are reasons to think and hope that the neoliberal era is passing, and that it is increasingly possible and very urgent to contest its influence in education, including the ubiquity of ‘quality’, and to work on building alternatives. Peter will discuss one possible alternative for getting ‘beyond quality’: adopting politics as first practice, creating a democratic culture, and building a public and participatory system of early childhood education. Teachers, he will conclude, should play an active role in the construction process and in the built alternative.