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International Conference concludes with recommendations to improve preschool education

Sarajevo 16. February 2012. - The Early Childhood Education / Preschool Conference (ECE) held on 14 and 15 February 2012 in Sarajevo  gathered policy makers, leaders, researchers, practitioners, civil society and international organization representatives active in the area of early childhood education who shared experience and set a new agenda in breaking down barriers  to  increase access to quality preschool education, and foster inclusion for all children. 

In a context of very low access to early childhood education, estimated at only around 12%, mostly in urban areas, this Conference succeeded to reaffirm early childhood education as a right of all children.  Over 150 participants from all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina together with experts from France, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United States and UNICEF Regional Office for Central, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, discussed about the main constraints and challenges for early childhood education and agreed on a set of recommendations and next steps for the expansion and improvement of ECE services in BiH.

“Transforming education system will require a decisive shift of policy attention towards early childhood education as the crucial stage of lifelong learning. It is imperative to make early childhood education widely available to all children.  At the same time, education change can be a means to pull in changes in other sectors, primarily health and social.” – said UNICEF Representative Florence Bauer.

The Conference concluded with a set of key messages which will be promoted in the next period in order to gain wider understanding and support for improvement in Bosnia and Herzegovina:
• Importance of access and inclusion for ALL children including those who live in rural areas, minorities and children with disabilities. As highlighted by professor Ulf Janson from Stockholm University "when you face an obstacle the solution is not to take the child away but to adapt the service"
• Access and inclusion goes in parallel with ensuring the quality of these services. As quoted by Dr Pia Rebello Britto from Yale University, "Quality is a key ingredient not a luxury".
• Every early childhood education programme must be designed around the following core quality thresholds - minimum number of hours, number of children per teacher and teacher qualification - in order to produce expected positive outcomes for children.
• With the aim to increase access to and quality of early childhood education, support should be given to innovative early childhood education programmes and approaches. Parenting education has to be part of these programmes.One of the key messages of the conference was that the lack of funding cannot be used as an excuse. As illustrated by Dr Emily Vargas Baron, Investing in early childhood education provides the best return on investment in terms of savings for the society (less repetition and drop-out, better health etc). There is an opportunity to reallocate funds taking into account the declining number of students in primary and secondary schools due to demographic trends.

Additional concrete recommendations were identified and will be further defined by professionals and experts, with UNCIEF support, to frame the necessary actions to adjust the legal framework, ensure resources and quality standards, as well as to generate universal understanding and raise awareness about the importance of early childhood education among policy makers, parents and general public.





Međunarodna konferencija zaključena preporukama o narednim koracima za unapređenje odgoja/vaspitanja i obrazovanja u ranom djetinjstvu u BiH


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