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The Center for Education Initiatives

Photograph of three young studentsThe implementation of the Step by Step program in Latvia started in 1997 as a project of the Soros Foundation - Latvia. To maintain the Step by Step program activities and network of schools and pre-schools that were involved in the project, a non-profit organization, the Center for Education Initiatives (CEI) was established in the beginning of 2001. The aim of the CEI is to raise awareness about children and family rights in society, to promote the dissemination of the ideas of democratic education, and to facilitate the introduction and reinforcement of a child-centred approach in the educational system of Latvia. Now the Step by Step network is wide-spread over the country, involving schools and pre-schools from all regions of Latvia. New Step by Step classrooms are being opened every school year with the support of the local/regional governments and parents.

To reach its aims the CEI’s activities are:

  • Advocate for policy to ensure that every child regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality or ability has the opportunity to develop to his or her full potential
  • Provide in-service training and technical assistance on early childhood education and parent/community involvement to teachers and other education professionals, parents and policy makers. The CEI offers thirty-nine different seminars and workshops
  • Develop new teacher resources and learning materials for early age learners oriented to be used in child-centered classrooms
  • Offer materials of its resource center (teachers/parents support books, children’s books, videos and journals) to lend to teachers, parents, communities, teacher training institutions and policymakers
  • Develop new training programs according the data collected about most urgent needs of educators and parents
  • Provide opportunities to share knowledge and experience through local and central media, as well as abroad

Since its registration in June 2001 till the end of 2003 there have been trained 5457 participants at the CEI seminars and workshops: 2502 pre-school teachers, 2424 primary teachers, 340 parents and 191 representatives of local governments and non-governmental organizations.

The CEI organization includes the network seven Teacher Training Centers covering all parts of Latvia (in Riga, Liepaja, Ogre, Jekabpils, Valmiera, Daugavpils and Jelgava), which operate with the aim of strengthening the most successful Step by Step model sites, to popularize the ideas of the program, and to provide students’ practice.

The CEI implements its projects with the financial support of the Open Society Institute, the European Commission Phare and Socrates programmes, and the local/regional governments.

In June 2000 a unique for Latvia civic organization was founded, the Step by Step Parent Association, by the parents from Step by Step project schools from different regions of Latvia. The association is one of the CEI partners. The association has set the following objectives:

  • to encourage public awareness and advocacy for equality and quality issues in education
  • to facilitate the reforms in education focused on implementing of the child-centered approach to teaching and learning
  • to promote parents and the broader community participation in education

The association organizes its conferences yearly. The Parliament members, the Ministers of Education, the Chief of the State Inspectorate of Education and other leading specialists of education have participated at those conferences. The association has been involved in discussions in mass media about urgent issues of early childhood education reforms to advocate for inclusion of children with special needs and minority children (Roma), and for new understanding of aims, content and methods of education.