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Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences
The article determines the key features of how preschool teachers position themselves in a reforming environment, which, on the one hand, creates higher demand for their services and on the other hand, is riddled with unresolved issues that impact the professional group’s status. In this context, the term “preschool teachers” covers not only classical kindergarten teachers, speech and language therapists, disability experts, psychologists, and other professionals traditionally employed in preschool education, but also a number of “at-home caregivers” (mothers that homeschool preschool children, babysitters, governesses, tutors, etc.). The sphere of preschool education is highly centralized, with very limited professional autonomy. The results of our study allow us the main problem points of the human resources in preschool education. The cultural resources of the profession are scarcely known to the general public, which has no notions of its specific features, expert knowledge limits, and criteria for evaluating preschool teachers’ professional activities. A look at expert opinions reveals that the economic resources of this group, as well the strategies for improving the state of these resources, differ depending on the type of educational institution (i.e. whether it is oriented towards government funding or market regulation). A more market-centric approach to services is typical of experts who represent education institutions that view their students’ parents as a more promising source of income, which both makes the institutions more competitive and decreases the reach and accessibility of their services. Traditional municipal kindergartens, by contrast, focus on government funding, which makes their economic resources and employee income directly dependent on the local region’s development level. This group of institutions has relatively little power, but there are some differences in autonomy at different levels. It must be acknowledged that, in the case of the state-funded sector, challenges at all stages of development and hurdles in practical activities are a threat to service quality, as well as to the improvement prospects of the professional group’s status.
Sociology of professions, sociology of education