Expanding the lens on child-centered relatedness and parents’ care work in education: reflections from fieldwork in Singapore

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This paper aims to initiate a discussion on the meanings and manifestations of child-centered relatedness, with a particular focus on parents’ educational care work and how parents navigate sentiments of uncertainty and risk in relation to their children’s future. By drawing on examples from ethnographic fieldwork in East Asia, I hope to contribute to expanding the lens on the moral and emotional dimensions of parenting, educational care work and child-centered relatedness in the Nordic context.
Questions around parental involvement are significant in a global context, given parents’ intensified role and engagement in their young children’s education; parents everywhere are faced with increasing expectations to attend to their young children’s learning and cognitive development. This paper focuses on how parents actively negotiate ideologies and norms of care in everyday life. Singapore’s education system is often celebrated for its high academic standards and for topping international surveys of student achievement. While this is usually assumed to be a result of rigorous examinations, Singapore has, in fact, initiated extensive educational reforms to reduce the emphasis on exams and grades. While a first-class education is still considered crucial to foster a competitive and competent population, childhood is now also supposed to be happy and stress free (see Bach and Christensen, 2021; Göransson 2023) Parents are faced with clearly ambiguous expectations. They are expected to play an active role in their children’s education, like helping with homework or preparing for exams, but they are also encouraged to cultivate their children’s genuine passion to learn and in general ensure them a happy childhood. Children’s psychological and emotional well-being was a recurring topic in interviews with parents, but at the same time they were deeply concerned about their children’s academic performance. That contemporary parenting is as a key site for risk management has been well established in previous research (e.g., Cooper 2014; Faircloth 2014; Furedi 2008; Lee, Macvarish and Bristow 2010; Rosen and Suissa 2020; Shirani et al 2011; Vincent and Ball, 2007). However, parental efforts and aspirations in finding the right balance cannot be understood as purely strategic and calculating. On the contrary, parents’ risk management in the domain of education is clearly a moral and emotional venture, entangled with fears of guilt and regret. Ethnography offers an empirically founded understanding of the cultural logics of parents’ care work in the domain of education; it takes seriously the subjective desires and aspirations that shapes contemporary parenting. Given the global knowledge economy and widespread concerns about children’s education and well-being, such insights are vital.
StatusPublished - 2023
EvenemangRelationality in everyday personal life: Rethinking relationships in the Nordic welfare states - Lund University, Lund, Sverige
Varaktighet: 2023 aug. 172023 aug. 18


KonferensRelationality in everyday personal life

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Socialantropologi

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