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Final Conference of EU Roma Pilot Project on Access to Early Childhood Education and Care [editar]

The final conference of the ‘A Good Start’ project, one of the three EU Roma Pilots launched by the European Parliament and financed by the European Commission (DG REGIO), took place on 4th June in Brussels.


Final Conference of EU Roma Pilot Project on Access to Early Childhood Education and Care

The final conference of the ‘A Good Start’ project, one of the three EU Roma Pilots launched by the European Parliament and financed by the European Commission (DG REGIO), took place on 4th June in Brussels.

Organised on 4th June in Brussels, the conference Early Childhood Education and Care for Romani Children -- Lessons from the EU Parliament-DG Regional Policy Pilot Project and Policy Implications for EU Structural Fund Use aimed to disseminate the results and outcomes of the EU Roma project "A Good Start" and explore future steps for scaling up the successful modules of the project. Starting in June 2010 and ending in June 2012, ‘A Good Start’ project is one of the three European Parliament’s EU Roma Pilots and is financed by the European Commission (DG REGIO), the Lego Foundation, and the Bernard van Leer foundation. Led by the Roma Education Fund (REF), the project supported more than 4,000 Romani children from ages zero to six in accessing early childhood education and care services in 16 locations across four countries (Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovakia).

The conference brought together representatives from partner organizations as well as policymakers, academics, Roma and non-Roma civil society organizations, governments, and European Commission and European Parliament representatives interested in developing a more inclusive system of early childhood education and care for Roma disadvantaged children.

It featured a number of high-level representatives including Mr. László Andor, European Commissioner responsible for employment, social affairs and inclusion; European Parliament representatives Ms. Danuta Hübner and Ms. Lívia Járóka; European Commission Directors of Directorate Generals Education and Culture, Mr. Pierre Mairesse, and Regional Policy, Mr. Rudolf Niessler, and Mr. Costel Bercus, Chair of the Roma Education Fund.

The conference was also the launch event to the World Bank report "Toward An Equal Start: Closing The Early Learning Gap For Roma Children In Eastern Europe" based on the 2011 UNDP/WB/EC regional Roma survey of Romani households in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. A photo exhibition about the project's activities was also organised.

Project partners, under the lead of the Roma Education Fund (REF), the World Bank, Open Society Foundations, and UNICEF joined the European Commission in its call on governments to ensure that all Romani and other poor and excluded children have access to quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) services.

The Commission's assessment of national Roma integration strategies were recently issued. All Member States have acknowledged education as a priority area next to employment in their national Roma integration strategies. Moreover, 14 Member States have proposed measures to widen access to early childhood education and care. This is encouraging, but to close the gap, planned measures should be fully implemented and become much more widespread.

Global evidence from research on early childhood development underscores the importance of early intervention – from conception to age 8 – especially to prevent inequalities before life trajectories are established. Given this importance, the Commission called on Member States to increase enrolment in early childhood education and care among the most urgent policy priorities in several Country Specific Recommendations, stressing the need to eliminate school segregation and misuse of special needs education, improve teacher education and school mediation and raise parents' awareness of the importance of education.

At the event, EU Commissioner Lazlo Andor and MEP Livia Jaroka said “Ensuring Roma children benefit from early stimulation and learning just like all other children is both a moral obligation and good economics in the long run. Experiences like the Good Start and other projects demonstrate that inclusive preschools and home parenting support can bridge the gap between Roma people and the majority population. Countries should leverage structural funds to invest in early learning and care for all poor children".

"Global evidence shows that early childhood education and care is essential to children’s development. The new regional Roma survey data show that Roma children do not have an equal chance. With the exception of Hungary, the vast majority are not in preschool. It is time to close this gap" added Ms Jaroka.

In line with global evidence, the new Toward an Equal Start World Bank (2012) study and the new Roma Early Childhood Inclusion (RECI) study by UNICEF, the Roma Education Fund and the Open Society Foundations (2012), find that quality ECEC services raise educational outcomes for Romani children. The findings of the World Bank report, based on the 2011 UNDP/World Bank/EC regional Roma survey in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, show that Romani children attending pre-school have much higher scores on measures of learning, and much higher likelihood of subsequent enrolment into secondary schools. Furthermore, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, children attending pre-school are much less likely to be streamed into ‘special needs’ education designed for children with learning disabilities.

The studies also find that access to quality and inclusive ECD services remains stark in comparison to majority populations and continues to demonstrate the lack of equity in this as in many other areas of life for Romani families. More than 80% of Romani parents wish a secondary education for their sons and their daughters, but the inequities in education start early: unlike non-Romani children, the large majority of Romani children aged 3-6 are not in pre-school, with the exception of Hungary: only 45% are in preschool in Bulgaria, in Romania 37%, in the Czech Republic 32%, and in Slovakia 28%. On the other hand, in Hungary, which provides financial support for poor families to access preschool, it stands at 76%.

The RECI (2012) study highlights in detail that reaching out to parents and teachers, and provide home parenting support, can raise the quality of ECEC services and make them inclusive of all children, regardless of ethnicity.

Investing in early childhood and care means giving poor and excluded children a more equal start in life. This is both a human right and smart economics that raises long-term labor productivity and helps break the intergenerational cycle of poverty affecting Europe’s poorest and most vulnerable communities like the Roma. Close co-operation between governments, the European Commission, civil society, and international organizations can help bridge the gap.

The final results, data and evidences of the “A Good Start” project will be available soon. The final evaluation report will be published at the end of summer 2012.

Presentations are available at:

For further details on the “A Good Start” Project, please visit the project dedicated website and the Roma Education Fund (REF) Quarterly Newsletters

The list of project partners is available here

Photo gallery