Samma, lika, alla är unika : En analys av jämställdhet i förskolepolitik och praktik

Sammanfattning: The aim of this thesis is to describe, critically analyse and provide information about gender equality in Swedish preschools, in relation to policy and practice. The main focus is on pedagogues’ gender equality work with children. The study includes a comparison between state gender equality policy in Scottish and Swedish preschools. The theoretical starting point for the analysis is a policy and gender perspective. Based on Bacchis’ (1999) and Marshalls’ (1997) work suggesting that gender equality policy issues and problems are socially constructed, a contrasting analytical framework is devised and used in the analysis. The main emphasis in the analysis of gender equality constructions is on underlying assumptions, competing constructions and “areas of silence”, relating to what is missing from a gender perspective. There is also some consideration of the agreement between constructions and concrete measures. The time-period studied was from the end of the 1960s onwards; emphasis was placed on the last fifteen years. The main empirical data consists of: Swedish and Scottish state official policy documents and interviews with Scottish researchers; Swedish local authority official documents and interviews with local authority officials from four municipalities; and interviews with pedagogues from three work-teams in three preschools. This information is complemented with documentation about the preschools’ gender equality work. In state preschool policy, pedagogues are depicted both as part of the solution to the gender equality problem but also part of the problem because there are “too few men”. Local authorities consider that pedagogues need more knowledge about gender equality. The pedagogues themselves make a distinction between the past, when their treatment of children was founded on gender-based stereotypes, and the present, in which they are aware but need to keep up the work. In both Swedish preschool policy and practice, gender equality has mainly focused on treating girls and boys similarly, based on assumptions that this is desirable; and this is still the approach. This similarity discourse has been quite constant in Swedish state policy since the 1960s. One exception, however, was the attention to biological differences which gained influence in the mid 1990s in policies mainly relating to compulsory schooling. Gender equality is, with respect to both policy and practice, largely constructed as a pedagogical preschool issue. Discussions about wider society mainly concern the public sphere and the labour market, whilst the private sphere is seldom considered. Children are mainly positioned as “girls” or “boys” and as recipients of pedagogues’ gender equality measures. In general, little consideration is given to hierarchies and variations among groups of girls or boys, or about intersections between gender and other socially constructed categories. Intersections were most clearly visible in practice, especially in one preschool studied; they concern gender equality, age and space. Issues concerning power and gender order are usually missing, and there seems to be a clear influence of gender role theories. Even though there is clear current emphasis on increased similarities, there is a tension concerning whether gender equality is about treating everybody exactly the same, treating everybody in quite similar ways or treating children as unique individuals. This also involves a tension relating to whether gender equality concerns girls and boys as individuals, or as groups, or both. The study demonstrated that the emphasis on gender equality is stronger in the constructions than in concrete measures. In practice, work-teams’ discussions about gender equality were more nuanced than the somewhat compensatory methods that these practitioners applied during their work with the children.