“Students should be given the opportunity to develop inclusive education awareness!"
A practicum for pre-school education at the Čakovec branch of the Faculty of Teacher Education, University of Zagreb was equipped within the EU Child Guarantee
Phase III: "Testing The Child Guarantee", financed by the European Union is being implemented in Medjimurje by UNICEF Croatia and its implementing partners, one being also the Čakovec branch of the Faculty of Teacher Education, University of Zagreb. In preparation for the new academic year, the mentioned implementing partner has equipped practicum classroom for early childhood education. The practicum classroom has been equipped with materials that fully correspond to the setup of a living room in the institution of early and preschool education, and the emphasis is on materials which contribute to the development of intercultural competencies and acceptance of diversity.
"The practicum classroom equipped in this way will enable students to test their theoretical knowledge in practice with the most modern didactic means", explains the professor at the Faculty of Teacher Education, doc. dr. sc. Adrijana Višnjić Jevtić.
"It is evident that institutions which educate teachers should be able to demonstrate everything that is needed in working with different age and development groups, so we concluded such a cabinet would have a significant contribution to strengthening the competencies of our students. The materials we have equipped the practicum classroom with enable the development of inclusive education awareness. For example, we have prepared didactic materials that encourage learning, tolerance, and mutual respect", doc. dr. sc. Višnjić Jevtić explains.
The practicum is designed as a kindergarten, equipped with furniture and toys intended for one mixed kindergarten group.
"In the practicum classroom, one can find activity centres and stimulating materials, such as toys as in every kindergarten. From centres, for family games, which we are all familiar with such as playing with dolls or in a small kitchen, to the centre of sensory motor skills, which is increasingly common in kindergartens today. A special feature within our kindergarten group, i.e. our living room, are materials based on alternative pedagogical concepts. We have materials for Montessori and Waldorf that students do not often have the opportunity to get acquainted with", Višnjić Jevtić says, and adds that children should be provided with opportunities to play because they learn the most through playing.
She also uses the opportunity to remind that not all children live in environments where they have space and opportunities to play. That is why, she points out, adults must provide such space.
"Children learn most easily whileplaying, it is important for them to be involved, to be in touch with others. Unlike past times when we grew up in multigenerational families, when we had cousins or siblings and children made social contact with different individuals much easier, today there is less of those opportunities. Children learn through three possible options – through playing, through experience or by a model. The model may be an adult, but it is very good when it is their peer because then their self-confidence and self-esteem as well as self-awareness of their own abilities grows. In a way, they encourage each other to take another step towards development and that is why it is important that children go to kindergarten", professor Višnjić Jevtić emphasizes.
Nažalost, programi predškolskog odgoja i dalje ostaju nedostupni velikom broju djece, posebice djeci koja žive u uvjetima siromaštva te u udaljenim, ruralnim naseljima. Upravo zato je pristup kvalitetnom predškolskom odgoju i obrazovanju, koji uključuje jačanje kapaciteta stručnjaka u sustavu predškolskog odgoja i obrazovanja, ali i roditelja, otvaranje novih ustanova te razvoj regulatornog okvira za lokalne vlasti, izdvojen kao jedno od tri područja intervencija kojima se u Hrvatskoj bavi pilot-program „EU Jamstvo za svako dijete“.
Unfortunately, early childhood education programs remain inaccessible to a large number of children, especially children living in poverty and in remote, rural settlements. That is why the access to inclusive and quality preschool education, was pointed out as one of the three areas of intervention of a "EU Child Guarantee" program in Croatia.
The students themselves helped to equip the new practicum classroom, although at that time classes at the university had not yet begun.
That way, students had the opportunity to gain insight into the process of setting up a classroom i.e. living room at the kindergarten.
"Behind this seemingly simple task is the entire philosophy, which explains why something is placed right here and not somewhere else. That is exactly why this was a good opportunity for students to experience the process of equipping the kindergarten. Usually, when they come to practice, the rooms are already equipped and designed, the children already carry out their their activities and dynamics, so they miss out on that important part of equipping the classroom", Adrijana Višnjić Jevtić said.
With the main aim of reducing child poverty and social exclusion for all children across the European Union, the European Commission, in partnership with UNICEF, is implementing a pilot-program "Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee" in Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Spain.
Croatia was given the opportunity to pilot programme Testing of the EU Child Guarantee, in cooperation with the European Commission and UNICEF, to work on solving child poverty and social exclusion. To develop new service models and best practices for children and their families, UNICEF will use its experience, partnerships and capacities by modeling integrated multidisciplinary, adequately funded family and community services in Medjimurje County, a region with limited access to child protection and family support services. UNICEF's approach includes three components: access to integrated child protection and family support services, access to early childhood education and access to integrated and coordinated early childhood intervention services.
© UNICEF, 2021 “The information and views set out in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.”
Čakovec branch of the Faculty of Teacher Education, University of Zagreb is implementing partner of the UNICEF Office in Croatia for the implementation of the pilot programme “Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee in Croatia”, funded by the European Union.