When I finished my undergraduate studies in Sociology, I started working for the National Board for Early Childhood Education Centres (Junta Nacional de Jardines Infantiles or JUNJI), a state institution which administers and finances programmes of early childhood education. This institution forms a part of the ‘public network’  of early childhood education and seeks to focus on access for families and children of disadvantaged sectors. Ever since, I have been interested in studying how families choose these centres.
Since the beginning of the 90s, public policies have started to expand their coverage. Thus, the public policy hypothesis is that greater equity starts from the cradle through the expansion of coverage of programmes of early childhood education and focusing resources on the most disadvantaged. The latest National Socioeconomic Characterization Survey (Encuesta de Caracterización Socioeconómica Nacional or CASEN) for 2015 on education (Ministerio de Desarrollo Social, 2016) has identified an increase in early childhood education coverage, but also gaps between the different income quintiles. Attendance increased from 5.5% in 1990 to 29.1% in 2015 for children aged 0-3, but 22.6% of children of the first quintile (the poorest) attend compared to 30.9% of children of the fifth quintile (the wealthiest).
So, if early childhood education policy increases its coverage in centres in the free public network and focuses on vulnerable groups, why does attendance in the lowest income quintiles decrease?
The same survey (Ministerio de Dessarrollo Social, 2016) identifies the reasons why children between 0 and 3 years do not access early childhood education, with the main reasons being: ‘It is not necessary because they take care of him/her at home’ (77.7%); ‘It seems unnecessary to attend at this age’ (13.9%); and, ‘Issues of access to the centre’ (3.7%) .
Expansion of coverage, gaps between quintiles and access reasons motivated me to investigate how children from 0 to 3 years were admitted to public network centres in disadvantaged sectors. Both in terms of the admissions carried out by the centres and the choices mothers have in these contexts.
First, my study involved an ethnography in an educational centre for six months to identify and characterise the admission and enrolment processes in 2016. Then, I analysed admissions in seven centres with distinct forms of administration and finances, all belonging to the public network in the disadvantaged municipality of Puente Alto, which is comprised principally of neighbourhoods of social housing. Finally, we interviewed thirty mothers who enrolled their children at nursery and middle levels in the centres analysed in 2016 .
The voices of the mothers convey their experiences of the process of admission to the public network centres. They communicate options, choices and values with respect to early childhood education in vulnerable sectors.
Revealing the voices of mothers allows us to understand the barriers to access at this educational level. It seeks to promote the attendance of children from 0 to 4 years in early childhood education centres in vulnerable sectors and to contribute to equity and educational social justice.
Ministerio de Desarrollo Social (2016). Encuesta de Caracterización Socioeconómica Nacional. CASEN 2015. Educación. Síntesis de resultados. [National Socioeconomic Characterization Survey. CASEN 2015. Education. Synthesis of results]. Santiago, Chile. Available online at: http://observatorio.ministeriodesarrollosocial.gob.cl/casen-multidimensional/casen/docs/CASEN_2015_Resultados_educacion.pdf
 The “public network” is the not-for-profit early childhood education centres administered and financed by state institutions. These institutions can be the Ministery for Education, the INTEGRA Foundation and the National Board for Early Childhood Centres (JUNJI).
 In “Issues of access to centre”, responses include “There is no enrolment”, “Not accepted”, “There is no centre nearby” and “Difficulty of access and mobility”.
Photo source: http://www.forumlibertas.com/educacion-otro-enfoque/
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