Social justice issues can affect the classroom directly but also indirectly, for example, poverty as a category may affect children's wellbeing if it impacts on their access to resources or to a balanced diet which then affects their health, ability to participate, inclusion with their peers or their self-esteem. In these cases, strategies in the classroom to support inclusion may not be sufficient. Teachers also need to investigate and advocate for strategies with families or at the school level in order to promote and support the rights of the child.
Poverty affects people of every ages, however, there are certain exceptional issues associated with poverty in the early childhood. The traditional concept of poverty describes poverty as an imbalance between the needs and resources of people. Such imbalance is the outcome of the limited resources that are unable to cater to the material needs of the people. The needs of the people include housing, fuel, food and medical care. It also includes proper access to services such education and transport. Poverty may be relative poverty or an absolute poverty (Brymer, 2014). The Senate Affairs Committee in Australia  has defined absolute poverty as a condition where people lack the basic requirements of life such as food, housing or clothing. In Australia, inadequate income is usually deemed as a useful indicator of child poverty.
The deprivation approaches have always concentrated on requirements such as housing, food but recent studies reveal that the deprivation approaches include needs relating to participation of activities. The term deprivation refers to the lack of access to activities that are otherwise considered as necessary essentials by majority of the population of the country. Children with low socio-economic status lead a life full of hardship and are deprived of some of the basic requirements of life such as, education, food, house and other necessities. For children, poverty also implies that they face social exclusion from participation in activities unlike other privileged children.
Several factors influence and shape the behaviour and attitude of people with respect to difference and diversity. The early childhood professionals’ commitment to equity and diversity has a substantial impact on the learning outcomes, emotional and social well-being of the children. The personal, cultural and family history of the child is responsible for shaping his/her learning and development. It is the responsibility of the teachers and other professionals of children to respect the cultural diversity of every child and support them with the best opportunities.
Social justice affects the learning and teaching of a child either directly or indirectly. It is the responsibility of the educators of the children to ensure that the abilities, interests and culture of every child and their families are understood and respected. The teachers must strive to provide best opportunities to every child irrespective of their diverse cultural diversities and interests. The early childhood professionals must support cultural awareness among all children, especially, the cultural diversity of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The professionals must provide support to the children from their early childhood to help them develop a sense of identity and connection with respect to their native land. Children with diverse cultural and social backgrounds must be encouraged to act as active participants to improve the quality of life and maintain sustainability.
The term diversity refers to people with different cultural background, languages, race, values, religion, socio-economic status, gender, abilities and any other factors that make a person different from each other. The concept of diversity is fundamental in early childhood education. Although the concept of diversity is used to denote children, belonging to different cultural background but recently, it also denotes every form of individual difference that subsists for families, children and professionals. It is evident from the term that difference is complicated and it somehow exists for every child in some way.
The positive and inclusive conceptualism of diversity demonstrates the growing diversity of the Australian culture and recognises diversity as a rule instead of an exception. Diversity in early childhood education is the right of every child to be included socially, physically and academically in all aspects of Australian life. The concept of diversity is intricately connected to the principles of equity. The term equity refers to the right of every child to have proper access to a lawful, fair and non-discriminatory education. This implies that there is an existence of inequality that must be elucidated to provide children with equal opportunities. The term equality must be construed differently from the term equity where equality refers to the same conduct, communication and values for all individuals. On the other hand, equity refers to the concept of social justice and fairness, which defies the prevailing culture and provide equal treatment to individuals or group of individuals to provide them with equal opportunities, thus, enabling them to succeed.
In early childhood, equity refers to high quality care and education that should be provided to children belonging to diverse background. Equity does not imply that every child is provided same experiences instead, it implies that every professionals must recognize the factors that acts as a hindrance to the learning power of each child and provide effective and appropriate redressal to such issues (Joslin & Boyd, 2014). Australia being a signatory of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Child (UNCRC), concentrates on the importance of the rights of children to have access to affordable education, right to non-discrimination and other rights that has been enacted for the welfare every cof hild.
Article 2 of the Convention requires the state parties to respect the rights of the children without discriminating them on the grounds of religion, race, caste, nationality, sex, color, political opinions, ethical views, disability, birth or any other status. Moreover, it also mandates the state parties to ensure that the children are not subject to any form of punishment or discrimination owing to their expressed opinions, status and beliefs and/or his/her family.
Several researches reveal that children belonging to low-income families often do not experience supportive conditions that encourage their willingness to learn; instead, they are exposed to inconsiderate social and physical environments that have a negative impact upon their desire and capacity to learn. The children suffering from poverty are often exposed to greater family chaos, violence from their family members and the parents are usually less responsive and inconsiderate with respect to the health of their children. The children do not have much access to books and they usually reside in more polluted, unhygienic and unhealthy environments. The household structure is unstable and is prone to hazards (Fleer, 2015).
The ability of a child to attain his or her full potential and become a self-reliant adult is restricted owing to the socio-economic status of the family of the child. If a child is raised in a family affected by poverty, the status of the family often acts as a hindrance to the future prospects and quality of life of the child. One of the adverse effects of poverty upon a child is that the child is not likely to have been exposed to museums, libraries which otherwise acts as factors that facilitates development of emergent literacy skills. Moreover, families with lower socio-economic status are unable to afford high quality education or their children unlike the privileged children. In addition, even if the underprivileged children are provided with the opportunity of having access to education, it so happens that privileged children often make fun of their socio-economic status, which causes them, to quit schools. The early learning experiences of a child is essential for their future development, therefore, due to the restricted access to education programs and books, several children, the vulnerable group of people within the society, in particular are at a prejudicial position.
The social status of an individual or/and a family within the society can be determined whether they feel appreciated and valued or whether they feel ignored, humiliated or disrespected and stigmatized. Most of the families, especially, the indigenous group, who are socially and economically less privileged, usually feel that owing to their socio-economic status they are not likely to have access to the conventional services within the society. Social exclusion includes denial or lack of resources, goods and services, the incapability to take part in the normal activities that are otherwise available to the privileged persons (Siry, Ziegler & Max, 2012).
Children develop constructive self-recognition and better educational results provided the teachers or professionals of the children promote inclusion and have high expectation for every child. Social inclusion refers to an environment where the obstacles related to the participation and access to learning opportunities are reduce to enable the children and the families to have proper access to education and other basic necessities of life. A child must be entitled to be socially included and valued as an active member of the community and have the accessibility to the basic requirements irrespective of their socio-economic status, race, color, religion of the child and his/her parents or any other family members. Social inclusion of children during their early childhood, irrespective of their diverse cultural background, shall enable the children to participate actively in social interactions, with other children, which would further enable them to be more respectful towards the different cultural diversity of their peers and comprehend the human requirements.
The early childhood professionals often report about structural hindrances to inclusion, which includes inadequate training and inability to access funding to support inclusion. In order to ensure inclusion, it is important that the children belonging to diverse background are supported through funding, and proper training and complete support from their families (Loxley et al., 2010). An essential factor in equity and diversity is having expectations from every child and the professionals of the children must communicate to the children during their early childhood about the high expectation that are expected of them. some children require additional support, especially, children with diverse culture or children with low socio-economic status, in order to achieve the high expectations.
Further, equity and diversity are considered as essential principles that help to create and maintain respectful relationship with families. When the families are included in their educational process, it results in better outcomes of the children’s development. There is an improvement in the development and learning outcomes when the families of the children support their education and are concerned about their development.
The expectation of educators and parents influences the learning ability of the children and when the parents and the educators have high expectations from a child, it influences the self-confident of the child and enables him/her to achieve their goal. The early childhood settings promote the cultural interests of the Aboriginal group of people to help them develop the sense of identity and belonging of the aboriginal group (Lind, 2004). It further supports the cultural understanding and encourages being respectful towards the diversity of the children. In case of Aboriginal group of people, there are many interconnected factors that impact on the Aboriginal children’s early childhood. There are certain factors that has had an impact on the outlook of the aboriginals towards the modern childhood settings such as discrimination, systematic devaluing of the Aboriginal culture and the traditions and language of the aboriginal group. The professionals are required to understand the various issues faced by the aboriginal families, one of which is poverty, due to which the families and their children belonging to the community faces hardships with respect to the accessibility to education and other basic necessities of life.
Community refers to people, values, and other factor that affect a family such as socio-economic status, safety, employment and dominant culture of a particular community. Children when they are connected with the environment and surroundings, learns the best. The elder members of the Aboriginal community teach their children to connect with the community through the traditional stories, their personal history and their place, enabling them to develop a sense of identity and belonging.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Accordingly, the following recommendations are made:
In order to provide social justice to every child, it is important for the teachers to determine the learning and development ability of the child to extend support to help them attain best development outcomes. This is because it is very important to assess the strength, interests and abilities of every individual child to provide appropriate education and care.
The Australian government must frame policies, which aim at encompassing several areas such as education, health, social participation and welfare especially for children, and families, who experiences social exclusion and are denied social justice owing to their low socio-economic status or poverty. The Federal Government’s Communities for Children initiative is one of the examples that aims to improve the development outcomes of the children through early intervention within unprivileged communities. This implies that effective socio-economic policies must be framed to redress such embedded disadvantage.
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