Over 50 participants from 25 European countries attended a seminar on Early Childhood Education (ECE) organised by EI's European region, the ETUCE. Held from 20-21 February in Budapest, Hungary, the event tackled a wide range of issues linked to ECE, particularly the impact of the economic crisis on the sector.
Participants exchanged information and experiences from their own countries and identified challenges to share. Furthermore, participants were invited to provide direct input to both the update and the implementation of the ETUCE policy paper on Early Childhood Education, which will be submitted for adoption to the 2012 ETUCE Conference.
The seminar began with Nora Milotay from the European Commission talking about the current European Union policies in ECE.
Presenting the new ETUCE Action and Campaign Framework on the economic crisis, ETUCE Director Martin Rømer firmly stated, "Education, including the ECE sector, is increasingly suffering from the effects of repeated austerity measures in many countries through Europe. This is a situation where we all have to show resistance, and, at the same time, point to alternative and credible ways out of the crisis."
He also highlighted that "the EI Education Policy Paper and the ECE Strategy, both adopted by the EI 6th World Congress in 2011, reassert EI's policy position that quality education, including ECE, is a human right and a public good. ECE therefore should be available and accessible to all, especially socio-economically disadvantaged groups, for instance the Roma, the immigrants, ethnic minorities."
He went on to deplore that ECE is one of the primary targets for initiatives aimed at privatising education. "While the situation differs in different countries, there is a clear upward trend in the enrolment of children in private early childhood establishments," he said. "In order for ECE to be accessible to the largest possible number of children, it needs to be organised within the framework of a free publicly-funded education service."
Privatisation in ECE
EI Vice-president Haldis Holst later addressed the impacts of the education reforms and the crisis on the ECE sector, and strategies and actions for implementation of the ECE Policy Paper.
Dr Mathias Urban also presented the latest EI Study on Privatisation, focusing on the ECE sector. His presentation was followed by a panel discussion on privatisation in ECE in Europe, focusing on Iceland, Poland and the United Kingdom.
Participants then split into three working groups dealing with social dialogue and collective bargaining in ECE in the context of the crisis: salaries and working conditions; teacher training and the professional development of ECE staff; and gender equality, attracting men to ECE.
The second day of the seminar was dedicated to reports from working groups, as well as discussions on policies and actions ensuring equal opportunities for immigrant and Roma children, especially in Bulgaria and Italy, and on union strategies to organise the ECE sector.
For more information on this seminar and read presentations given, go to http://etuce.homestead.com
The ETUCE plan of action against the crisis is available here.
To know more about EI policy on ECE, click here.