5 Steps to Quality – A word with ECEC Expert Anke van Keulen
Anke, you have developed trainings, tools and methodologies for the Early Childhood Development field for some time. What is so different or new about the 5 Steps to Quality Training that it needs our attention?
‘It is an interesting question because I see both differences and similarities with the work I have done till now. Crucial of the European Quality Framework and also of the training package 5 Steps to Quality, is the integral and holistic approach: addressing all aspects of quality in an equal and integrated way. So the European Quality Framework and the training touches all aspects of the Early Childhood Education and Care policies and practice.’
‘The red thread in my more than 25 years’ work for MUTANT is respect for diversity and equity. The similarity is that our work on diversity also touches all aspects of the quality in European Childhood Education and Care: accessibility, workforce, curriculum, monitoring and governance (the 5 pilars of the European Quality Framework). The difference is that in our diversity training practice, we often focus on one single aspect of diversity (professionalism, parents, curriculum) by which you do not see the whole picture and the interdepence of the quality aspects.’
Can you share a specific story where the 5 Steps to Quality training helped solve issues where other or earlier tools fell short?
‘This builds on the former question: our experiences in training in the Netherlands show that the integral approach of the European Quality Framework gives insight in quality and supports professionals being part of the whole picture, it raises their self-esteem. Next to that, the European Quality Framework and the training package focus on reflection as a basic tool to work on quality and change.’
The Framework, which forms the basis of the 5 Steps to Quality training, has been developed by a group of experts within the field. How quickly does it spread across the countries and who are its primary advocates?
‘My experience is that dissemination takes time and that it is highly contextual. The European Quality Framework offers principles, a vison and a way of thinking and reflecting. For instance in the Netherlands the national Early Childhood Education and Care policy is not focusing on EU guidelines. So here we have to start from bottom up with local authorities or child care provider organizations.’
‘In other countries where Early Childhood Education and Care is less established, the framework is highly valued and the training package can be spread more widely and systematic. In the countries I know, the European Quality Framework has been advocated for by researchers, NGO’s, professional networks and implemented in policy documents, in professional education, in child care provider organizations, in research frameworks.’
Are there day care centers, preschools and schools where the European Quality Framework is not fit for use?
‘The framework can be used by every center or school, but it is highly dependent on the focus and attitude of the people, dependent on their open mind, their willingness to learn and to change.’
Our knowledge of learning and the diversity in ways of learning has changed enormously in the past years and will also in the years to come. Do you believe that the 5 Steps to Quality training will endure these rapid changes?
‘The 5 steps to quality is a flexible training, and the focus on the European Quality Framework (and the follow up with the indicators) on reflection and permanent learning, will endure changes I think. The focus on professionalism, reflection and learning communities (as recommended in the framework and worked out in the training) are necessary 21st century competences that will not change rapidly. And: EU windmills turn slowly….’