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Shallwani, S. (March, 2009). The social construction of school readiness. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Charleston.
Full paper available here: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/detail?accno=ED529814
Abstract: In the mainstream discourse on child development and education, 'school readiness' has been conceptualized as the skills and knowledge that children need when they enter school in order to learn effectively in the school environment. However, school readiness is an idea which is entwined with our beliefs about child development and child needs (E. Graue, 1992). Indeed, the mainstream conceptualization and operationalization of school readiness is grounded in particular values and beliefs about the nature of child development, ideas about vulnerability and competence, and the characteristics deemed valuable in a particular society. In this way, social context determine the focus of school readiness, what is valued, what is assessed, and what resources and supports are identified as needed. This paper will critically review the literature on school readiness, examining the cultural assumptions underlying the mainstream discourse, and exploring the social construction of school readiness. Although the alternative discourse on school readiness is scant at best, the paper will draw on literature in related areas to explore how school readiness might be alternately conceptualized in different socio-cultural contexts. The paper will also explore the larger theoretical discussion of universalism versus cultural relativism and social construction.