Nineteenth century early childhood institutions in Aotearoa New Zealand: Legacies of enlightenment and colonisation

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The nineteenth century colonial setting of Aotearoa NZ is the most distant from the cradle of European Enlightenment that sparked new understandings of childhood, learning and education and spearheaded new approaches to the care and education of young children outside of the family home. The broader theme of the Enlightenment was about progress and the possibilities of the ongoing improvement of peoples and institutions. The young child was seen as a potent force in this transformation and a raft of childhood institutions, including the 19th century infant school, kindergarten, and crèche were a consequence. The colonisation and settlement of Aotearoa NZ by European settlers coincided with an era in which the potency of new aspirations for new kinds of institutions for young children seeded. It is useful in the 21st century to reframe the various waves of colonial endeavour and highlight the dynamic interfaces of being colonised for the indigenous populations; being a colonial for the settler populations; and the power and should be purposed of the colonising cultures of Europe. It can be argued that in the context of ECE neither the indigenous nor settler populations of Aotearoa NZ were passive recipients of European ECE ideas but, separately and together, forged new understandings of childhood and its institutions; enriched and shaped by the lessons learned in the colonial setting of Aotearoa NZ.

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