Photo: Courtesy of Caroline Boudry

Challenging the split system in early childhood care and education
Emerging pathways: Experiences from Belgium, France, Italy and the Netherlands 

 

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Many European countries have separate education and care services that cater to the needs of children below school age and the needs of their families in what is referred to as a split early childhood education and care (ECEC) system. The services that cater for the needs of the youngest children and their families are labelled as “childcare” — stressing a caring role while underestimating their pedagogical dimensions. The services dedicated to the needs of older children and their families are often called “preschool”, implying a narrow focus on school readiness which obscures the necessary element of care. 

In 2019, the Council Recommendation on the High-Quality ECEC Systems, challenged the conceptual and institutional split between services for younger children (up to 2-3 years old) and older children (from 2-3 years to primary school age), suggesting that early years services are more beneficial when they address the entire age group (birth to primary school age) in a consistent and holistic way. 

Interest in investigating the consequences of sustaining the split ECEC system for children, families, and professionals has led to more in-depth research in four countries: Belgium, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. Researchers and civil servants from the four countries investigated challenges at system level (macro), local level (meso) and pedagogical level for staff, children and parents (micro), as well as innovative practices and/or emerging policies that can inspire other countries. The research also highlighted several critical issues that emerge from split systems, such as increased inequalities; failing transitions; inconsistent presence of pedagogy; and distinct and distant professional and institutional cultures that lack (political) dialogue.  

Webinar 1

Why challenge the split early childhood education and care systems?

Date: November 15th, 2022 

Time: 15:30 - 17:30 CET

Languages: English, French and Italian

During the first webinar, the challenges that persist in split systems in many European countries —where childcare for the youngest children is organized distinctly from preschool for the children up to compulsory school age — will be shared. Findings from the research in Belgium, France, Italy, and the Netherlands, on the experiences of children, parents, and professionals, as well as policy-makers, will focus on the inequalities that are (re)produced by the split system and how this may be related (and questioned) by the implementation of the European Child Guarantee Council Recommendation. 

 

Topics and speakers:  

  • The problems of split systems and presentation of the present working group – Michel Vandenbroeck, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Predictors of child development in split systems in the Netherlands - Ruben Fukkink, University of Amsterdam & Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands
  • The transition to kindergarten in France, experiences of socialization in split systems and a special focus on children in poverty, Pascale Garnier and Sylvie Rayna, Sorbonne Paris Nord University, Experice research laboratoryDiscussion - Led by Reina Kloosterman, Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, the Netherlands 
  • The experiences of parents and professionals with transitions in Belgium - Katrien Van Laere, VBJK, Centre for Innovation in the Early Years, Belgium and Mari Housen, University of Liège, Belgium   
  • Policy perspectives on split and integrated systems in Italy - Arianna Lazzari and Lucia Balduzzi, University of Bologna, Italy
    • Discussion - Led by Daniela Marrocchi, Ministry of Education, Italy
  • Conclusions - Michel Vandenbroek, Ghent University, Belgium

 Host: Zorica Trikic, International Step by Step Association, the Netherlands

 


Webinar 2 

What are alternative pathways to address critical issues raised by maintaining split ECEC systems?

Date: December 1st, 2022 

Time: 15:30 - 17:30 CET

Languages: English, French and Italian

During the second webinar, country examples that illustrate the organization of smooth transitions between home and ECEC services, and between ECEC services and preschools, or those that experimented with the integration of care and education and bridged the organizational divides existing in split ECEC systems, will be shared and discussed, giving voice to children, parents and professionals experiences.

Topics and speakers:

  • Summary of the first webinar – Michel Vandenbroeck, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Shared continuing professional development initiatives for 0-3 educators and 3-6 teachers in Italy - Tullia Musatti and Mariacristina Picchio, Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies - National Research Council, Italy
  • The experiences of actions passerelles and classes passerelles in France - Sylvie Rayna and Pascale Garnier, Sorbonne Paris Nord University, Experice research laboratory
    • Discussion - Led by Michel Vandenbroeck
  • Findings from the Integrated Centres in the Netherlands - Ruben Fukkink, University of Amsterdam, and Pauline Slot, University of Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • Emerging pilot projects on the integration of care and education in Flanders - Kathy Jacobs, Governmental agency “Opgroeien”, Lobke Van Lombergen, Ghent University, and Marie Housen and Florence Pirard, University of Liège, Belgium
    • Discussion - Led by Elke Verdoodt, Adviser of the Minister of Welfare, Health and Family, Flanders
  • Conclusions - Michel Vandenbroeck, Ghent University, Belgium

 Host: Zorica Trikic, International Step by Step Association, the Netherlands

 

 


Further reading | Lecture ulterieur | Materiali di approfondimento

 

Infographics - in English only

BELGIUM | FRANCE | ITALY | NETHERLANDS

 

Factsheets

English:  BELGIUMITALY | NETHERLANDS

Français: BELGIQUEITALIE | PAYS-BAS

Italiano: BELGIO | ITALIA | PAESI BASSI

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: 
This webinar is being funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which  may be made of the information contained therein