EU Roma integration is still lagging behind on school segregation and early childhood services

In the very recent European Report on Roma integration, the European Commission indicates progress in primary and secondary education. At the same time access and quality of early childhood services (birth to 6 years of age) remains a challenge.

Delivering on quality early childhood education and care for Romani children remains a challenge in many EU Member States. In early September, the European Commission published its Report 2019 on the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies.

The report focuses on the adoption of Roma inclusion measures and summarizes the most important trends on four policy areas of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (education, employment, health, housing), as well as fighting discrimination and antigypsyism.

Some important achievements have been reached so far. As the Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, mentioned: “Now, 90% of Roma children attend primary and lower secondary school.”

However, the Commissioner also mentioned that “receiving proper education from an early age gives every child a chance in life.” Half of the Member States have adopted some measures to increase the access to quality early childhood education and care, especially to increase kindergarten capacities, but the investment in early years means more than providing preschool education.

Early childhood is more than preschool education

In terms of services, much more should be done to support young children’s healthy development and learning (age birth to 6). For example by investing in early intervention and prevention programs; and by removing the financial and non-financial barriers to quality inclusive education.

In addition, although health and housing are two main policy areas that are closely monitored, we unsatisfactorily noticed that not much was mentioned about what impact those key areas had on young Romani children.

School segregation remains a pressing problem that undermines the success of other inclusion measures. The provision of early and free access to quality and inclusive early childhood education and care for Romani children could be one of the powerful solutions to this problem. At the same time, it will not replace the prejudice and discriminatory practices that schools need to address as educational communities.  

our contribution

The road to achieve educational equity for Roma children is still long. In four EU countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia) the National Romani Early Years Networks (REYN) have helped implementing some successful measures, such as the provision of in-service training and support for kindergarten teachers to improve the quality of their practices when working with children, families and communities. Also, they developed non-formal or community-based services that are connecting families and professionals of different generations both Roma and non-Roma.  

We look forward to work with the new European Commission and with the Members States to find efficient and just ways to increase the access to quality early childhood services for all young children and their families.

For further information, download the EC report.