Book reveals impact of globalization on early childhood ed

<p>Joseph Tobin, a professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education, provides new insights into the impact of globalization and sweeping social transformation on preschool education in his new book, “Preschool in Three Cultures Revisited: China, Japan, and the United States.”</p><separator></separator><p>Published in July by The University of Chicago Press, the book adds a historical dimension to Tobin’s earlier research published in the original “Preschool in Three Cultures,” which was heralded as a landmark study in education in 1989 largely due to his ingenious method for exploring how preschoolers were taught in China, Japan and the United States.</p><separator></separator><p>Armed with a video camera to capture a typical preschool day, Tobin and his collaborators at the time, David Wu and Dana Davidson, recorded children saying goodbye to their parents, misbehaving, playing and fighting, as well as moments of intimacy that portrayed teachers comforting crying students. The researchers, then, showed the videotapes to educators within each school community and asked them what they saw – a technique the researchers call “video-cued multivocal ethnography.”</p><separator></separator><p>The educators’ responses provided key insights into their culture’s approach to early childhood education.</p><separator></separator><p>Twenty years ago, education systems in Asia attracted worldwide attention because people were curious about what factors had shaped the dramatic economic growth in Japan and China. Tobin and his collaborators provided insights by videotaping activities in a place where the citizens of tomorrow are shaped – in preschools. Recent dramatic changes in Chinese culture lured Tobin back for a second look, as well as another book.</p><separator></separator><p>“China as a society had changed so much, it’s not surprising that their early childhood education system also had changed,” says Tobin, who joined ASU in 2001 as the Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education’s first Nadine Mathis Basha Professor of Early Childhood Education.</p><separator></separator><p>But Tobin and his new collaborators Yeh Hsueh and Mayumi Karasawa also discovered intriguing changes in the American preschool system and how the Japanese were using preschools to preserve traditional values.</p><separator></separator><p>“What makes this book unusual – even unique – is that it’s simultaneously a cross-cultural study of three countries and a historical study of two time periods,” Tobin says. “It’s very rare for a researcher to go back to the same place 20 years later. The first book asked the very basic question, ‘Why are preschools different in different cultures?’ The new book has asked that question, plus how and why preschools in different cultures stay the same and change.”</p><separator></separator><p><b>Tobin’s findings<br /></b></p><separator></separator><p>In China, preschool directors told the researchers that to compete in global capitalism, China needed citizens who were more creative and entrepreneurial.</p><separator></separator><p>“The early childhood education system had to change to produce children who were creative and more individualistic to become the driving force of the future economy,” he says.</p><separator></separator><p>But in the past couple of years, educators became concerned that China had gone too far.</p><separator></separator><p>“The new concern is how can you produce children who will become this new kind of successful entrepreneur, but who also will have the traditional Chinese values and the concern for society that was characteristic of the People’s Republic of China,” Tobin says.</p><separator></separator><p>“We were borrowing Japan’s business practices and education ideas just so we could catch up,” he says.</p><separator></separator><p>Since that time, Japan has been struck by an economic downturn and a host of new social problems blamed on post-modernization.</p><separator></separator><p>“The preschool in this context has become an oasis or preserve for protecting traditional Japanese values,” Tobin says. “There is almost no academic emphasis and very little formal curriculum. Instead, the emphasis is on the development of social and emotional competencies, such as empathy and social-mindedness, which means learning how to be a member of a group.”</p><separator></separator><p>The United States has seen an explosive expansion in early childhood education over the last two decades. While one-third of four-year-olds attended preschool 20 years ago, that ratio is more than two-thirds today.</p><separator></separator><p>“Meanwhile, preschool teachers feel increased pressure to move in different directions,” Tobin says.</p><separator></separator><p>The tug-of-war is being created by No Child Left Behind’s emphasis on academic readiness and skill-based instruction, while professional organizations that license preschools, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children, increasingly emphasize “developmentally appropriate practice,” with a greater focus on play and social relationships.</p><separator></separator><p>“Preschool in Three Cultures Revisited” has been reviewed by education scholars across the country.</p><separator></separator><p>“It is fascinating to see how much does change, even in 20 years, in the preschools studied by Tobin, Hsueh and Karasawa,” says Catherine Lewis, a senior research scholar at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., in a moderated discussion published in the Comparative Education Review. “The sequel videotapes remind us that people create culture, and people can change culture.”</p><separator></separator><p>In the same discussion, Gita Steiner-Khamsi, a professor of comparative and international education at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York, called Tobin’s research a “methodological masterpiece.”</p><separator></separator><p>“The new ethnography breaks new ground in terms of methodology, preschool research and also globalization studies in education,” she says.</p><separator></separator><p>Lori Baker, <a href=""></a><br />480.827.0560<br />Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education</p>