Civil society and the business community champion early childhood education in Romania
Early childhood education has a new strong advocate in Romania. Ready Nation Romania, a network of business people who are socially engaged, has been supporting early childhood advocacy in the past two years. Together with our member the Step by Step Centre for Education and Professional Development (CEPD) Romania, Ready NationRO is promoting early education at government meetings, events and on national media. Carmen Lica is the Executive Director of CEPD Romania. She explained to us how the business sector can make a difference for children.
“In Romania, the quality of education is a much debated issue. It concerns everyone. If the basement of your house is not solid, then you cannot expect to have a solid house; this is the same for education”.
How did you get the idea of launching such a network?
“We got inspired by Ready Nation in the United States. The idea was to bring together civil society organizations and business representatives to advocate for early childhood education and care (ECEC). We identified three business people who were interested and agreed to set up Ready Nation in Romania, which is a social enterprise that has business people among its members. We just helped them set it up, with financial support from the Open Society Foundations”.
We hear often about companies funding charities, what we don’t hear often is companies engaging in early childhood advocacy. What convinced them to embark on this?
“Firstly, we brought up the scientific argument. The evidence shows that 80% of our brain develops in the first years of life, so that’s the time when we need to concentrate most of our efforts. Secondly, we know that on the long term, is cheaper to invest in early childhood rather that intervening at later stages in life. In addition, companies are aware that quality early childhood services and education form not only a qualified workforce of tomorrow, but also benefit more broadly the society, today and in the future.
They understood the importance of our arguments and decided to get involved”.
How do you keep the issue high on their agenda?
“We organize a conference with Ready Nation RO every year. In 2016 we obtained the patronage of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance and partnered with UNICEF Romania. After attending the event, the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance understood the need for such a network and he has been very supportive since.
We also noticed that there’s more and more interest every year. The event in 2017 had wide coverage in the media”.
What are the benefits for children so far?
“As a result, some business leaders are now part of the Ministry of Education’s working group that designs the national strategy on early childhood education. We from the civil society sector are, of course, also contributing to the strategy and we expect it to be launched in 2018.
Another result is that one of the companies decided to support the Step by Step program by funding training for teachers and parents. In addition to that, more companies offered early education and care services to their own employees”.
The Network will be presented at the ISSA Conference in Ghent, next October.
“Yes, the director of Ready Nation USA and two Business Leaders from Romania will present the panel: “Building business champions for early childhood in your country”. They will share insights from the experience of setting up such a network and we hope many other organizations will be inspired to start something similar in their country”.
What are your ambitions for the future?
“We will support the Business Leaders by organizing national conferences in the coming years. The objective is to make sure that the companies’ role in the national debate on ECEC increases every year.
My hope for the future is that some of the companies will decide to put part of their profit in supporting early childhood education by matching public funds”.
The Step by Step Centre for Education and Professional Development operates in Romania since 1998, and it has been an ISSA member since then. They bring the Step by Step method in public education, serving about 600 pre-school classrooms and 600 primary school classrooms. They support quality education in the early years, via projects, trainings and advocacy.