NEWS RELEASE - Access to Early Childhood Education and Care Key to Equal Start of Roma Children
BRUSSELS, June 4, 2012
The Roma Education Fund, The World Bank, Open Society Foundations, and UNICEF join 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 has been issued just a couple of days ago. 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.
Commenting earlier today in Brussels at the presentation of the European Commission supported “A Good Start” pilot project by the Roma Education Fund and the simultaneous launch of the World Bank study Toward An Equal Start: Closing the Early Learning Gap for Roma Children in Eastern Europe, DG Employment Commissioner Laszlo 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"
‒ László Andor, Member of the European Commission
"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.""
‒ Livia Jaroka, Member of the European Parliament
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.
In Brussels: Alexander Rowland, +32 2 504 0992, firstname.lastname@example.org
In Washington: Dorota Kowalska, +1 (202) 473-2676, email@example.com
In Budapest: Tom Bass, + 36 20 367 5036 firstname.lastname@example.org
In London: Sarah Klaus, email@example.com
For more information and to download the new reports – RECI (2012), World Bank (2012), please visit: