Ministries, European Commission and UNICEF Join Forces to Transform Early Childhood Education and Care in the Czech Republic
PRAUGUE, 20 September – The Czech Republic’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport, UNICEF and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support joined forces to develop a comprehensive framework for the monitoring and evaluation of early childhood education and care in the Czech Republic. The initiative, funded by the European Union through the Technical Support Instrument, will contribute to healthy development and access to quality learning for children from early age, and support parents’ employment.
“I see combining work and family life as a vital topic, which is why I fully support expansion of children's groups as one of the alternatives to pre-school education. By gradually expanding the range of childcare opportunities, we want to alleviate discrimination of women, who often face restrictions in their career while they are raising their children. We support pre-school care not only by financing it from the state budget, but also thanks to using European subsidy programmes”, said the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Marian Jurecka.
In the Czech Republic, the capacities for early childhood education and care for children aged 0-3 have been increasing. Yet only 7% of children aged 0-3 are attending any form of childcare and education due to affordability and insufficient capacities in children’s groups, kindergartens and other facilities. New measures need to be implemented in order to increase the quality and accessibility of the services providing early childhood education and care, including strengthening of the monitoring and evaluation system.
"Pre-school education is very important for the development of competencies needed for life and increases children´s chances of success at school. It is at this time that children's cognitive and speech differences can be balanced most easily. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports enables children to be educated in kindergartens from the age of two if there is sufficient capacity. In the past, we have repeatedly advertised programmes to ensure sufficient capacity in both kindergartens and primary schools so that places can be guaranteed for all children. Children's groups are certainly a suitable complement to these steps, which can ensure quality care for the widest range of children from the youngest age until the start of compulsory schooling," said the Minister of Education Mikulas Bek.
Developing a Comprehensive Framework for the Monitoring and Evaluation of Early Childhood Education and Care in the Czech Republic" is a two-year project supported by the European Union via the Technical Support Instrument (TSI), the EU programme that provides tailor-made technical expertise to EU Member States to design and implement reforms helping to strengthen the resilience of our economies and societies.
“In the European Union, early childhood education and care which is both affordable and of high quality is a children’s right. It is a building block for a strong social Europe: fair, inclusive and full of opportunities, in particular for the most vulnerable in our societies. Through the Recovery and Resilience Fund and the European Social Fund+ the EU is helping boost the capacities of the Czech Republic to provide young children and their families with early childhood education and care. To ensure that investments are sustainable, and reforms focus on high quality of services, the European Commission now also supports the Czech authorities, through the Technical Support Instrument, in developing a strong and tailor-made system for the monitoring and evaluation of the quality of early childhood education and care,” said Mario Nava, Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support.
Through the technical support provided by UNICEF, the government will obtain an effective monitoring and evaluation system to expand access and increase the quality of the early childhood education and care services for youngest children and gain tools to expand the services on municipal and local level.
“Early learning is critical for children’s development and influences their whole life. A strong foundation built during the first years not only contributes to success in education but is essential for health and well-being of children. Early education and care are especially important for children from vulnerable groups, including refugees. It helps in overcoming inequalities and at the same time enables parents to participate in the labour market. UNICEF is proud to provide technical support to the ministries in implementation of the project,” says Yulia Oleinik, Head of UNICEF Refugee Response Office in the Czech Republic.
The cooperation was launched jointly by Zdislava Odstrčilová, Director General of the Family Policy and Social Services Section of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Martina Běťáková, Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, and representatives of the European Commission and UNICEF.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/eca/.