Early Childhood Education and Biculturalism: Definitions and Implications

Chris Joyce Jenkin


My doctoral research concerned implementing bicultural curriculum in mainstream early childhood centres in Aotearoa New Zealand. While I explored these ideas from an appreciative inquiry standpoint, some troubling aspects related to the notion of biculturalism occurred. In this article, definitions of biculturalism are examined, as is the relationship between bilingualism and biculturalism, as well as the growing move to replace power sharing implied by biculturalism, with multiculturalism.  In addition to perusing the literature, data were collected through a survey of 76 early childhood respondents, in 2003.  Generally, respondents had a positive definition of biculturalism.  However, when considering whether bicultural practices were a positive expression or not academic literature was divided.  What was interesting in Aotearoa New Zealand was overall those promoting biculturalism were Pākehā and those opposed were Māori.  One conclusion I draw is that the term Tiriti-based better captures the intention of partnership than biculturalism.


Bicultural, Tiriti-based, early childhood education, appreciative inquiry

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