The policy domain of childhood education and care (ECEC) has experienced a huge surge of attention in recent years. However, while national governments have forged ahead with a range of policy initiatives, little comparative research has been undertaken.
At the conclusion of its thematic review into ECEC policy and provision in 2006, the OECD called on researchers to use its findings as a springboard for research. In particular, it called for ‘further cross-national work, focusing on … critical issues and challenges’ including: the rationale for different ways of organizing ECEC policy and provision; the balance of investment between parental leave and services for infants and toddlers; responses to the shortages of skilled and qualified staff; how best to promote parent engagement in ECEC; and how policy can help parents to balance paid work and family life.
In response to this call, an international network of scholars and non-government organisations has been stablished, generously supported by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), the Academy of the Social Sciences of Australia, the British Academy and the Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW. The aim of the network is to encourage policy-relevant research across and between Australia, the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Sweden. The network also includes strong representation from non-government organisations (NGOs) from each of the countries. This is in keeping with ARACY’s goal of encouraging research that reflects the needs and interests of the policy-making and practitioner communities as well as researchers themselves.