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Title: Inclusive early childhood education new insights and tools – contributions from a European study
Authors: Kyriazopoulou, Mary
Bartolo, Paul A.
Bjorck-Akesson, Eva
Gine, Climent
Bellour, Flora
Keywords: Inclusive education
Early childhood education
Multicultural education
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education
Citation: Kyriazopoulou, M., Bartolo, P., Björck-Åkesson, E., Giné, C., & Bellour, F. (2017). Inclusive early childhood education new insights and tools – contributions from a European study. Odense.
Abstract: Quality in early childhood education is a prominent concern for policy-makers, and has recently become a priority concern for many international and European organisations. These include the OECD, UNESCO, UNICEF, the European Commission, Eurydice and the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education, among others. Over the past three years (2015–2017), the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (the Agency) has examined the latest policy documents and relevant research in this field. This has been a springboard for exploring the main characteristics of quality inclusive early childhood education (IECE) for all children from three years of age to the start of primary education. The project data from across Europe has provided an opportunity to closely examine how, within the inclusion perspective, early childhood education provisions are addressing the quality principles set out by the European Commission and the OECD. Sixty-four inclusive early childhood education experts from across Europe contributed to the project. They participated in data collection and analysis through descriptions of example provisions, as well as observations and discussions during field work and case study visits. This report first sets out the main policy and practice developments towards inclusive early childhood education, with particular reference to European policy issues (Chapters 2–3). It then presents the project’s three new contributions towards improving quality inclusive early childhood education (Chapters 4–6). These are: 1. A clear rationale for and an analysis of the implications of adopting an inclusive vision and goals as the main standards of inclusive early childhood policy and provision. The project found that high-quality services that benefited all children were guided by an inclusive vision and worked towards inclusive goals. As their primary outcome, they sought to ensure each child’s belongingness, engagement and learning. This reflects the changes in early childhood intervention in recent decades. The focus has shifted from ‘working with the child’ towards a holistic approach that creates an inclusive environment for all children’s engagement and learning. The report thus refers to quality early childhood education (ECE) as ‘inclusive early childhood education’ (IECE). It only uses the terms ‘early childhood education’ (ECE) or ‘early childhood education and care’ (ECEC) when referring to the literature. 2. A new Self-Reflection Tool for improving inclusive early childhood education settings. This enables practitioners to review their service’s quality in terms of the inclusiveness of the physical, social and other learning environments it offers to children and families. The tool has been validated by project experts and additional ecological studies. It is ready for use by practitioners in inclusive early childhood education settings in different education systems and countries across Europe and beyond. 3. A new Ecosystem Model of Inclusive Early Childhood Education for policy-makers and other stakeholders wishing to collaborate towards effective action in this field. This model can support policy-makers and practitioners to collaborate in planning, reviewing and improving quality IECE services. The model is founded on the project data. It is inspired by three major frameworks for quality IECE, namely: (1) The structure-process-outcome framework used by European and international policy-makers (European Commission, 2014; OECD, 2015; European Agency, 2009) (2) The ecological systems framework (Bronfenbrenner and Morris, 2006) (3) The inclusive education perspective (European Agency, 2015). It incorporates all the principles of the EU and OECD frameworks for quality early childhood education. However, it enhances their applicability by locating them at different ecological levels (inclusive early childhood education setting, home/community and regional/national levels). Finally, the report gives an account of the lessons learned during the three-year project and the resulting recommendations (Chapter 7). These are presented within the framework of the new Ecosystem Model of IECE. They are mainly directed at policy- makers, but they also point to the implications for practitioners. Indeed, they are formulated in terms of how policy-makers can support practitioners to ensure quality provisions.
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