Date: 22-07-2020

Early Childhood Education Included in the National Defense Strategy of Romania

Recently early childhood education was included in the National Defense Strategy of Romania for 2020-2024 as a part of the presidential program Educated Romania. President Klaus Iohannis noted that the strategy was drawn up against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered a deep economic crisis and altered power relations. The new strategy for the country provides answers to essential questions regarding the priority national objectives for ensuring the security of Romania and its citizens.

ISSA’s member Step by Step Centre for Education and Professional Development (CEPD) Romania is working on elevating early childhood on the national policy agenda among the priorities for investment for a long time. We are talking with the Executive Director of CEPD Romania Carmen Lică about this work and how Romanian experience could help other countries to achieve the same results.   

- Carmen, can you please tell us a bit more about why including ECE in the National Defense Strategy is so important?

- The importance is given by the fact that the National Defense Strategy is establishing guidelines for the future government measures and investment priorities. On the other hand, the Strategy is developed by the Supreme Defense Council and including ECE as a topic for this national body, recognizes the role played by ECE as a part of the security of the citizens and the nation in an ongoing changing world. This recently adopted Strategy is not pointing only at ECE, but it assures the framework to operationalize the Presidential project “Educated Romania”.

I understand that it took your organization and your partners some time to achieve such result. Looking back, what steps were the most important to make, and what could be some ideas useful for other countries?

Depending on each country profile, the steps could be different but the first milestone is to make sure that everyone understands what you are talking about, and everything you do from that moment on is to demonstrate the benefits of what you are advocating for – ECE. The first advice to share is that you always need to make sure that you do your best. The second – no matter how difficult it might be at some points down the road, you should never give up and follow your path. Promoting ECE for already 25 years taught us to recognize all our potential supporters. So, nurture relationships with everyone that has a potential to become an honest supporter of your ideal and be aware that you never have enough friends.

ECE became a part of the Romanian National Defense Strategy not as a unique theme, but as a part of the presidential program Educated Romania. We were invited to bring our contribution in the program since the very beginning of it, in 2017. After two years of hard work, in 2019, along with other educational pillars, ECE was acknowledged as a priority in the Educated Romania programmatic document – the one that the Strategy asked this June to be operationalized.

ISSA has issued a joint Position Statement about the importance of prioritizing early childhood especially in times of COVID-19. The inclusion of ECE into the National Defense Strategy in Romania is actually a great example along the statement’s lines. Can we say that now is the best time to advocate for early childhood services? Or is the contrary true, that it is now more difficult to keep talking about ECE as a priority as well, given the so many competing priorities?

- I would say that every day is a good day to advocate for ECE. Every time when childhood, education or investments are topics is a great opportunity to explain the benefits of ECE. We should not be discouraged to talk about ECE in the time of COVID-19 and moreover, maybe it is the right time to explain that ECE can prepare future generations for unexpected contexts like the one we are living today.

With ECE being the part of the Strategy, what are the next steps now? What opportunities does such a decision bring?

Now we have a more solid framework for all the legislation needed, some of it also advocated by our organization, approved, but postponed due to budgetary restrictions. With this brand new vision in the Defense Strategy we hope that future budgets will have dedicated ECE chapters. At the same time, we aim to pass a law through the Parliament which stimulates private investments in ECE quality services. This project was a teamwork result, together with our colleagues from ReadyNation RO. If approved, it will be the best of its kind in Europe, and we will gladly share all the details with those who are interested.