Adults have the key role in fight against prejudice as children adopt attitudes from their environm
Education “Creating Intercultural Environment and Education for Diversity” is part of the EU Child Guarantee
Respect for one's own and other cultures is the basis for building a tolerant society and has an extremely important role in the educational process. If other cultures are excluded from educational curriculum, it may result in social alienation of students belonging to minority groups. That is why it is important to work on creating an intercultural environment from an early age, such as kindergarten environment. For that reason UNICEF's implementing partner, the Open Academy ‘Step by Step’, designed the education program ”Creating Intercultural Environment and Education for Diversity”, as a part of the pilot-program “Phase III: Testing the Child Guarantee”, funded by the European Union and implemented by UNICEF and partners in Medjimurje County.
“This education is intended for preschool educators precisely because preschool age is crucial for working with children on prejudices and stereotypes. Although it is difficult for most adults to believe that young children have prejudices, there is much evidence that children are aware of the difference between people and that they form attitudes towards others very early on”, explains educator and preschool teacher at the Kindergarten Savica, Dubravka Grgošić-Dragić.
“The role of adults is therefore essential, because children most often adopt attitudes and beliefs from their environment”, points out Grgošić-Dragić.
“Encounters with children who are different from them, help each child to develop a sense of friendship and tolerance towards other ethnic groups. Thanks to this, a child manages to, from an early age, develop habits of coexistence, tolerance, respect, and cooperation. That is why the active, tolerant, and respectful attitude of adults who raise and educate children towards differences has a preventive effect in the education against prejudice”, adds educator and preschool teacher at Kindergarten Savica, Bojana Gotlin.
„It is important to plan the early childhood education process in which the identities of children will be given importance, to plan activities in which children can recognize injustice and advocate for social justice, raise awareness and also train children to participate in a multicultural society“, says Gotlin.
Through a series of individual and group activities, participants of education program, mostly educators from kindergartens, can review their own attitudes, stereotypes and prejudices and discover how they affect the educational process in kindergarten.
Participants learn how stereotypes are created and find examples of stereotypes and prejudices in professional life, but also understand how children develop stereotypical ways of thinking and adopting prejudices. Thanks to knowledge gathered, educators understand how to incorporate the concepts of social justice into activities and projects implemented in the group and get ideas on how to change the physical environment in kindergarten in order to respect individual and group identity in children and to positively influence development of self-esteem in children.
After completing the training, most participants said they think this method will fit well into their work with children. They are particularly pleased with the new way of presenting picture books to children, as well as the new way of discussing the picture books with children. They also like practical examples, the approach of educators and the amount of new content that was presented to them and which they have adopted.
©UNICEF, 2022. “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.”
Open Academy 'Step by Step' is the implementation 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.