Safe, Inclusive Participative Pedagogy: Improving early childhood education

In whose best interests? The ECD regulatory framework, understandings of the best interests of the young child and access to quality early education

Citation: Biersteker, L., Berry, L., & Gwele, M. (2023). In whose best interests? The ECD regulatory framework, understandings of the best interests of the young child and access to quality early education. South African Journal on Human Rights, 1-25. - Mar 2023

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996, and early childhood development policy, legislation and regulations prioritise the best interests of the child. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child General Comment 7 provides guidance on how best interests should be applied for young children to protect their rights and promote their survival, protection, and development, as well as measures to support and assist parents and others responsible for realising children’s rights. The ECD regulatory framework defines quality standards and monitoring is undertaken by local government and provincial education departments. The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 (as amended) provides for ‘developing appropriate parenting skills and capacity of parents and caregivers to safeguard the well-being and interests of children’. These align with General Comment 7. However, a conspicuous gap in the regulatory framework is the limited focus on the programme quality critical for realising the right to education. Further, we contend the contextual factors are not sufficiently considered in the application of ECD regulations. Using a case study approach, we explore how the best interests of the child, regarding access to quality early education, are interpreted by different stakeholders in a diverse, vulnerable community and compare these views with the operationalisation of the best interests principle in our regulatory framework.