This article argues that Early Childhood Education & Care (ECEC) is being redesigned based on quality reform discourse with references to global knowledge economy across the Nordic countries and the EU. This takes place in policy processes that extend from transnational agents like the OECD and the EU to national governments, local municipalities and ECEC institutions. Drawing on theoretical insights from Foucauldian genealogy, Laclau and others, the article explores how these policy processes reconfigure what counts as quality in ECEC in a Danish context. It is substantiated how the Danish government promotes governance structures among municipalities and professionals that pull ECEC into comprehensive educational strategies. This process draws on policy advice from the OECD and the EU. Quality reform thus changes in fundamental ways the organisation and content of ECEC. In discourse, learning displaces playing, and the learning pre-school child emerges. Put together, this situation represents a paradigmatic challenge to professionals and the struggle about their autonomy and discretion.

Keywords: quality reform, early childhood education, discourse, professional development