REYN Croatia Contributed to the NESET Report on Multilingualism
The in-service Bayash language course developed by the Open Academy Step by Step and REYN Croatia has been included as current practice that support multilingual children and families in the recently published NESET analytical Report “Working with multilingual children and families in early childhood education and care (ECEC): guidelines for continuous professional development of ECEC professionals”.
An increasing number of children are growing up in environments in which more than one language is spoken. For many of these children, early childhood education and care (ECEC) is often their first contact with the majority language of the country in which they are growing up. This situation adds to the crucial role that ECEC professionals play in children’s education.
Children from multilingual families bring an added richness to the ECEC centre. Their full language repertoire is both a resource for the child’s own holistic development, and enriches the learning experiences of the other children. Policy recommendations at European level, as well as the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child advocate for language learning from a young age and promotion of multilingual education in ECEC.
About the NESET Report
However, multilingualism presents specific challenges for ECEC professionals. To support multilingual children and families, ECEC staff must possess complex knowledge, skills and competences, as well as an understanding of child development and early childhood pedagogy. Many ECEC professionals feel an insecurity or lack of experience about working with multilingual children and families. In addition, educational practices are often geared toward monolingualism, and approach diversity and multilingualism as a problem instead of a resource. Multilingual parents (or non-native speakers of the institutional language) may also be uncertain when faced with making choices for their child, and often face barriers to engaging in reciprocal relationships with ECEC professionals.
Some of these challenges may be overcome through the participation of ECEC professionals in continuous professional development (CPD), which can positively impact the quality of pedagogical practices towards children and parents. However, CPD must be of high quality and must meet specific criteria – which, as evidenced by the findings of recent research, is not always guaranteed. CPD in relation to multilingualism in the ECEC context is often not attuned to the complex realities of multilingual families and may not always incorporate up-to-date scientific insights. To overcome this, CPD requires ongoing review and development. With this in mind, the purpose of this report is to formulate research- and practice-based policy recommendations for high-quality CPD to support ECEC professionals working with multilingual children and families.
You can find the full version of the report here. Find the summary in English here, in German here and in French here.
A Video with Young Roma Bulgarian Teacher Generates Over a Million Views
The Trust for Social Achievement Foundation, the host organization of REYN Bulgaria, is actively involved in implementing the Young Roma Teachers program, which aims to support young individuals of Roma origin who aspire to become kindergarten teachers. By building successful role models, the program contributes to the development of Roma children, fostering their motivation and desire to learn. This year, a series of videos were created to promote the program and showcase its successes.
The main goal of this initiative is to address the shortage of pedagogical professionals in kindergartens and to reduce unemployment among the Roma population in several Bulgarian municipalities. The program encompasses more than 60 talented Roma youths who have received financial assistance to pursue pedagogical education and have already enrolled in universities. By the summer of this year, 10 of them are expected to successfully graduate with bachelor’s degrees, while the number of students already working as teachers and teacher-assistants in kindergartens affiliated with the program is nearly twice as high.
Desi, an eager Roma student enrolled in the program, is set to embark on her journey as a teacher this autumn. “Today, I find myself in an entirely different environment – a working, independent woman,” she says.
Desi’s inspiring success story has garnered significant attention on social media platforms, creating additional publicity and raising awareness. Notably, the Bulgarian video showcasing her achievements has surpassed one million views and was even featured on national television.
Trust for Social Achievement Foundation – ISSA Member and REYN Bulgaria coordinator – supports professionals working with minority children in increasing the scope and quality of the services provided and unites the advocacy efforts of its members.
ISSA Member in Hungary Ensuring Roma Inclusion in Kindergartens
Starting in 2020 and funded by the European Union, the project “Inclusive kindergartens for the quality education of Roma – ending Roma segregation” operates in 11 kindergartens, reaching more than 1000 children. The project consortium is formed by the Municipality of Józsefváros (8th district of Budapest) – the most multicultural district of Budapest, Partners Hungary Foundation – an ISSA Member organization and REYN Hungary host organization – and the Rosa Parks Foundation.
The project aims to offer children with different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds quality pre-school education – both for the disadvantaged and middle-class families. Each kindergarten has to have a balanced mix of Roma, children with special educational needs and foreign children.
With the leadership committed to ending segregation, the municipality provided the methodology framework aiming to combat the discrimination and/or segregation of Roma children, enhanced the integration of students from various ethnic and social economic backgrounds, and adjusted the kindergartens’ pedagogical methodology to be inclusive and of high quality. One of the first steps for the development of the programme was to renovate the kindergarten buildings and make them more attractive to all parents.
The task of Partners Hungary Foundation’was to ensure that both the district level and institutional strategic planning and its implementation are carried out with the involvement of all stakeholders, and that kindergartens updated their methodological tools and offer new services in line with modern educational principles and the expectations of parents.
Among other contributions, Partners Hungary developed a method that was implemented in each kindergarten in the 8th district. The “Micro-project system” lays on participation with a bottom-up approach, motivation and incentives and support (trainings, peer learning exchanges) when it comes to kindergarten teachers.
In addition, the consortium introduced new educational programmes in all 11 kindergartens such as:
English (play-based English as Second Language sessions)
Minecraft program (educational use of Information and Communications Technology)
Superar music program
Green kindergartens (climate awareness)
Altogether a total of 48 microprojects were implemented.
After two years, the collaborative project has already produced a number of excellent outcomes: the focus on early childhood education has resulted in a child-friendly municipality, the kindergartens went through an organisational development process and teachers took part in professional development. New educational programs have been initiated, resulting in renewed profiles of the kindergartens and created more space for innovation.
The complex methodology and tools which were developed and tested within this project will be available to all municipalities and other kindergarten managers who would like to bring about change to their kindergartens based on the same principles.
Kovács, I. J., Deák, É., Erőss, G. (2022). A complex intervention for inclusive kindergartens – analysis of a sozialmarie prize winner innovation in Budapest. Conference paper. ICERI2022 Proceedings. 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, 7-9 November, 2022, Seville, Spain. https://doi.org/10.21125/iceri.2022.0378
REYN Kosovo Chose Eight Ambassadors
Roma, Egyptian and Ashkali professionals and paraprofessionals and non-Roma professionals who work in early childhood development (ECD) with children and their families in Kosovo could become the Ambassadors of Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Early Years Network (KRAEEYN) – the hosting organization of REYN Kosovo.
The main idea is to promote the work of professionals who have expertise and who contributed to raising and improving the quality of education in these communities with a special focus on early childhood education at the national level.
The ambassadors were nominated by the KRAEEYN network in cooperation with its Steering Council – local NGOs at the country level – that develop and implement programs in the field of early childhood education.
“Professionals and paraprofessionals in the field had to fill in their personal and professional data in questionnaires that we created. So we had a database with early childhood development professionals from the Roma, Egyptian and Ashkali communities and from the non-Roma professional’s community who work in ECD with children and their families,” says Sofije Toska, project manager of Kosova Education Center (KEC), hosting organization of KRAEEYN. “Among the respondents, eight Roma and non-Roma ECD professionals and para-professionals were selected”.
All of these ambassadors are successful leaders in their community. Their role is to promote the work of the KRAEEYN network in their communities and beyond. They are also committed to contribute to every activity, objective and needs addressed by the KRAEEYN network.
REYN Draws Attention to Roma Children at the European Parliament
Moderated by Tomas de Jong, Junior Policy Manager for Health Equity (EPHA), the meeting highlighted the importance of early childhood development to help Roma children in Europe grow and thrive, despite the structural barriers they are repeatedly faced with. It also brought to light the issue of school segregation and the overrepresentation of Roma children in institutional care. The meeting concluded by galvanizing European and national policymakers to take action in the early years.
Roma children in Europe not given the opportunity to thrive
The meeting started with a keynote speech by MEP, Dr. Milan Brglez, Vice-Chair of the Intergroup on children’s rights and member of the Committee of Employment and Social Affairs. In his opening statement, he said, “As a father, pedagogue and politician, I can confirm that there is no greater satisfaction than helping children and young people to thrive, recognize and realize their potential in a world full of challenges.”
The reality in which Roma children live often makes it very difficult, however, for them to develop and thrive. He argued that “unequal opportunities for Roma children to take full advantage of their potential are not only unjust and in violation of their fundamental rights, but also to the detriment of the Roma community and society as a whole as they perpetuate the intergenerational social hardship and exclusion.”
“To break the vicious circle of inequality that Roma children and their families face, we must first understand and raise awareness about the conundrum of structural determinants and obstacles coupled with antigypsyism and intersectional discrimination that negatively affect the lives of Roma from the earliest years of childhood.”
New data about the situation of young Roma children in Europe
Following Dr. Brglez, Aljosa Rudas, Program Manager at ISSA and coordinator of the REYN Initiative, referred to the scientific evidence that states that the first six years of a child’s life are critical in determining their future outcomes, and introduced the recent European REYN Early Childhood Research Study. Conducted in 11 countries, the study brings together unprecedented Roma-related early childhood data, exploring six key areas that impact a child’s holistic development, including discrimination and antigypsyism. The report also contains recommendations for coordinated European and national action to support the inclusion of Roma children.
Experiences of antigypsyism and poverty
Next, Reneta Krivozova, Policy and Advocacy Officer on Child Poverty at Eurochild, presented a new project taking place in Bulgaria, which to improve the lives of people living in disadvantaged situations — especially Roma populations as 86% live in poverty. Currently, there is an overrepresentation of Roma children in care. The project gathers evidence on how to prevent family separation and support families before children enter into care.
Expanding on the issue of the institutionalization of Roma children, Tanja Vasić, of the Minority Initiative, Austria, highlighted the large scale of the problem in Europe and that alternative care is hardly available for Roma children due to systemic racism and antigypsyism. Ms Vasić provided some suggestions on how to provide support to Roma National Strategies to ensure that alternative care is provided for Roma children. She stated that, “If we want to change something for those children, we have to change relations: we have to change how people treat Roma families.”
Call to action/ongoing initiatives
Agata D’Addato, Head of Program at Eurochild presented the First Years, First Priority campaign which works to bring early childhood development onto the EU policy and funding agenda. The campaign focuses especially on children from birth to three years of age and on those children who are facing the biggest disadvantage — such as Roma, migrants and refugees, children living in poverty or in institutions, and children with special needs or disabilities.
Francesca Colombo is a Program Manager at ISSA and works on the First Years First Priority campaign. She highlighted that for the campaign to be successful — ensuring that all young children aged 0 to 6 have equal opportunities for safe, healthy and optimal development — it is crucial to have evidence and data about the situation of the most vulnerable young children and their families, including Roma children, in order to be able to combat the discrimination and exclusion they face and be able to support them effectively.
“There is no quality in ECEC services if there is no inclusion”
Geraldine Libreau, Policy Officer for Early Childhood Education and Care at the European Commission, opened her speech with these words. She outlined potential avenues for action from the European Commission to break the circle of discrimination. She also highlighted the important efforts of the European Working Group on Early Childhood Care and Education in having inclusion as a key pillar of an integrated and holistic approach for the early years.
Voices from the field
Participants also had the opportunity to share their insights, including encouraging and successful practices. Zsuzsa Laszlo, National Coordinator of REYN Hungary shared the importance of working with Roma ECD professionals. She noted that, “Quality education in early childhood is only possible if we pay attention to the professionals who work with Roma and refugee children.”
Roma children must have equal access to opportunities
The meeting was closed by Mr Dragos Pîslaru MEP, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. In his concluding remarks he urged EU Member States to comply with their obligations and take action to meet the needs of Roma people, and Roma children in particular. He argued that “It is crucial to see and feel the types of challenges that Roma children are facing” and emphasized that, “We cannot stop until each and every child in a Roma community has equal opportunities to access the same services as children in other communities.”
REYN Croatia Awarded Roma Professionals as Role Models
REYN Ambassador awards in Croatia aim to improve the access, quality of inclusiveness of educational services for your Roma children. It does so by recognizing the exceptional and successful examples of quality and inclusive practices provided by Roma professionals in positions that are important for young Roma children to learn and fully develop.
REYN role models are recognized Roma who use their professional and personal reputation in their work to significantly improve conditions for Roma children and/or by their example and achievements encourage greater inclusion of Roma among experts and professionals.
The Ambassador awards are given within the project Inclusion and Equality for Roma Children and their Families run by REYN Croatia.
Watch videos of this year Croatian REYN role models in Croatian language:
This year ISSA, through its REYN initiative, became one of the co-organizers of Roma Week 2023 that will take place on 24-27 April in Brussels, Belgium. Policymakers, experts, activists and organisations concerned with persistent antigypsyism in Europe will be collaborating for Roma Week in the European Parliament and other EU institutions. The Roma Week 2023 is aligned with the objectives of the European Year of skills 2023.
In the framework of the Roma Week 2023, there will be a series of events focusing on how history affects the current situation of Roma in Europe and what are the prospects for the future. The Roma Week 2023 is hosted by the European Parliament and European Commission and organized in partnership with Roma and pro-Roma civil society.
ISSA, through REYN initiative, will be co-organizing the event “Unlocking the Potential of Young Roma Children in Europe” on 27 April, together with European Public Health Alliance, Minority Initiative and Eurochild and hosted by dr. Milan Brglez, Member of European Parliament (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats). The discussion will be about that each and every child deserves a fair start and equal opportunities in life. However, across Europe Romani children disproportionately face hardship during the early years and beyond. The first six years of a child’s life are critical in determining the rest of their lives. Early Childhood Development is therefore crucial in ensuring that Romani children have all the opportunities to unlock their full and unique potential and grow up in good health and wellbeing – to grow and thrive. However, there are barriers which make realising this difficult. The size of the problem is difficult to determine because of a lack of (disaggregated) data. Adverse conditions for Romani children and their parents are also persistent, as antigypsyism and poor social determinants lead to hardship in all facets of life; employment, education, health, housing to name a few. A result is that Romani children are disproportionately placed in separate schools, sent to ‘special needs education’, or simply removed from their parents and placed in institutional care. Poverty and discrimination run through these issues like a red threat, a structural issue.
During this event, these issues will be illustrated by outlining the scale of the problem, by providing examples of how these issues might manifest in daily life for Romani children, and most importantly how this issue can be resolvedthrough policy action. More information about the event you can find here.