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Home arrow Geography arrow Global Perspectives on Human Capital in Early Childhood Education: Reconceptualizing Theory, Policy, and Practice

Human Capital Theory and the Promotion of the Entrepreneurial Attitude toward Early Education in Turkey

Sabiha Bilgi

This chapter’s concern is with human capital theory as it exerts a growing influence in the realm of early childhood education in Turkey, defining it as an investment in improving the quality and market value of the population. My aim is, first, to examine the constitution of early education along the axes of investment, capital, benefit-cost ratios, and quality in the context of Turkey. Second, I seek to shed light on how that constitution shapes the ways in which individuals engage with, and engage in, education, individuality, childhood, equality, and social change.

In order to examine the amalgamation of early childhood education with human capital theory in Turkey, I look at a variety of policy documents by different national and international nongovernmental organizations that were written with an aim of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the country’s current state of early childhood education, and that provide an increased public and government awareness and support for comprehensive and quality early childhood education services in Turkey. Among these reports are “Dogru Ba§langtg: Turkiye’de Okul Oncesi Egitim” [The Right Beginning: Preschool Education in Turkey] (2005) by TUSiAD (Turkish acronym for Industry and Business Association); “Turkey: Expanding Opportunities for the Next Generation. A Report on Life Chances”

(2010) and “Expanding and Improving Early Childhood Education in Turkey” (2013) by World Bank; “Turkiye’de Okuloncesi Egitiminin Fayda-Maliyet Analizi” (2005), “Ekonomik ve Toplumsal Kalkinma I fin Erken Qocukluk Egitimi: Onemi, Yararlari ve Yayginla§tirma Onerileri” (2007), and “Turkiye’de Okuloncesi Egitimi: Eri§im, Egitlik ve Kalite” (2009) by AQEV (Turkish acronym for Mother Child Education Foundation).

My selection of the abovementioned documents for examination is informed by the fact that they are financed and released by some of the key nongovernmental agencies playing an influential role in shaping policies and discourses for identifying the definition and purposes of early education in Turkey. My analysis of these documents seeks to expose and problematize the extent to which human capital theory is a constitutive component of the governmental rationality in the present-day Turkey. My aim is to shed light on the way in which human capital theory forms itself into a nexus of power/knowledge and turns into one of the strongest naturalized explanations of, and rationales for, why early childhood education is important and needed.

The chapter consists of three main sections and a conclusion. In the section that follows, “Human Capital Theory as a Governmental Rationality,” I outline the theoretical and conceptual framework that guides my analysis of the policy documents mentioned above. The second section, “Early Education Advocacy: ‘How Well Does It Pay Off?,’ ” looks at the ways in which human capital theory found its significance in these policy documents and was appropriated as a driving rationale for the promotion of comprehensive early childhood education programs in Turkey. The last section, “Human Capital Theory within a Discursive Grid,” examines the discursive grid that gives human capital theory intelligibility and popular appeal. In this section, I aim to examine the effects of human capital theory as a social discourse that interconnects with other historical and contemporary discourses and sets the boundaries to what is possible to think, hope, and do for in particular ways.

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