Excerpted from abstract
Within the broad landscape of early childhood education and care politics and policies, calling quality reform into question is a political act. As numerous scholars have pointed out, policy structures that measure and identify what constitutes quality (and what does not) are not value-free and reflect neoliberal human capital economic agenda whose effects are rapidly changing early childhood work. This paper investigates how quality reform in the early childhood sector has reinvigorated historical distinctions between early education and early care to elevate early education as ‘quality’ via standardisation and systematisation regimes. Drawing on the Australian context as a local example relational to the global, the paper theorises that ‘edu-quality’ discourse and agenda problematically constructs early care work as intertwined with but also separate from early education inputs and outputs, attributing it unequal import and impact. The paper concludes by emphasising the need for sector stakeholders and advocates to challenge the ontological and epistemological distinctions and conflations that underpin edu-quality politics and policies.