Early childhood education and care (ECEC)

Today, the role of early childhood education and care is increasingly recognized to be strategic for the well-being of the child and its future psychological and intellectual development.

The ChildONEurope Network began to study this issue in 2006, when the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs – on the occasion of the Finnish Semester of EU Presidency - commissioned the Secretariat to present a survey on The Child's Right to Early Childhood Education and Care in the CRC Committee's Concluding Observations on the EU countries' last reports. The aim of the survey was threefold . It wanted first of all to identify the issues most frequently examined by the CRC Committee, then to identify the points of strength and weakness in the EU Countries' CRC implementation and, finally,to point out the issues on which EU Countries can improve their policies concerning early childhood.
It is worth to summarize the most important conclusions of the survey, that represent as well the CRC Committee's most relevant indications on the issue:

  • 1) a definition of early childhood should include all young children at birth and throughout infancy, during their pre-school years, as well as during the transition to school (below 8 years);
  • 2) the need for States parties to adopt comprehensive and coordinated plans and services for early childhood within a rights-based framework;
  • 3) the need for an increase in human and financial resource allocations;
  • 4) where services are provided by the private sector, the States have an obligation to monitor the quality of provision;
  • 5) where services are decentralized, this should not be to the disadvantage of young children;
  • 6) work with young children should be properly paid and valued;
  • 7) systematic child rights training for children, parents and professionals should be implemented.

At the end of 2008, given the fact that ECEC services were receiving a greater attention into the EU framework, ChildONEurope Network decided to focus on this more specific issue by organising a seminar.

ECEC has long been an important part of the EU’s social and economic policy and of gender equality policy. At the Barcelona Council of 2002 it was agreed to establish a common target to be reached by EU States, namely the coverage of 33% of places in ECEC services for children from birth to 3 years as well as 90 percent for 3 to 6 years old. Although such decision shows an important commitment that EU States agreed to undertake, however this quantitative goal was not accompanied by any qualitative specifications. This is exactly the aspect ChildONEurope wanted to tackle in its “Seminar on early childhood education and care (ECEC) services and promotion of social inclusion” , that took place in January 2010. It was designed to provide a forum for knowledge exchange among the ChildONEurope partners and other key international governmental and non governmental actors involved in the field, concerning in particular a comparative analysis of the EU situation focusing more on qualitative than quantitative aspects.

The Seminar succeed in promoting a reflection on the impact that such services can have in fostering social inclusion and fighting the risk of social exclusion of socially disadvantaged children as well as migrant children, in a framework of universal access to services.

To download the surveys and seminar documents