A cross-cultural analysis of gender and practitioner-child interactions in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) settings in Scotland, Hong Kong, and Mainland China

  • Yuwei Xu

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study is conducted in the global contexts of policy calls for more men to work in early childhood education and care (ECEC) and of concerns over the assumed ‘feminisation’ of ECEC. The overarching aim is to critically interrogate whether men should be encouraged to work in the ECEC workforce in greater numbers in both the UK and China (Mainland China and Hong Kong). Framed by the poststructuralist theoretical framework of gender, this research aims to address four research questions: 1. How do practitioners posit themselves as women/men working with young children in ECEC? 2. How do children view their practitioners’ gender in relation to their daily interactions? 3. What is the nature of interactions between practitioners and children in ECEC settings? How far and to what extent can these interactions be seen to be gendered, and in what ways? 4. How far and to what extent can culturally-specific gender discourses be seen to have an impact on practitioner-child interactions in Scotland, Hong Kong and Mainland China, and in what ways?

Qualitative, multiple-method and cross-cultural approaches were adopted. Research methods employed include observations in ECEC settings, interviews with ECEC practitioners, and pictorial activities with children. 17 ECEC settings were recruited from the cities of Edinburgh, Hong Kong, and Tianjin, and 34 ECEC practitioners and 280 children aged 3-6 years old participated in the research. The findings suggest that practitioners’ and children’s constructions of gender subjectivities can be diverse and dynamic processes through which individuals embody and ‘perform’ their gender with references to a variety of cultural and gender discourses that situate them. This study therefore argues that ECEC pedagogies and practices need to enable practitioners and children to interrogate dominant gender discourses and to become gender-sensitive and –flexible performers, in order to achieve gender equality, diversity and inclusion in ECEC. Current political drives in the UK, China and elsewhere to recruit more men to work in ECEC and to achieve a gender-balanced ECEC workforce need to reconsider their theoretical underpinnings and to make sure that such policies will not reinforce binary, hegemonic gender structures. A gender-diverse and –flexible approach to gender and ECEC is preferable for equitable and inclusive ECEC.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Glasgow
SponsorsUniversity of Glasgow
SupervisorBarbara Read (Supervisor) & Michele Schweisfurth (Supervisor)

Cite this