Date: 01-02-2019

NEWS - A New Partnership for Young Children: ‘Romania Grows with You’

A new four-year partnership has been formed to push forth the improvement of Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Romania. The project, called ‘Romania Grows with You’, is a collaboration between the Step by Step Center for Education and Professional Development (CEDP), UNICEF in Romania, the International Step by Step Association (ISSA) and the Jacobs Foundation in Switzerland.

The overall objective is to create a paradigm shift and push the agenda forward in early childhood policies and practice in Romania, targeting children aged birth to six years old, while making the case for the importance of high quality early years services. The initiative will make use of models and methodologies developed by the partners, including the resources from ISSA and CEPD on supporting quality early childhood development, the Jacobs Foundation’s Primokiz approach and UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development resource package. This systemic approach with a strong focus on quality will be used in two counties in Romania and one district in Bucharest in a pilot phase. The experiences will feed directly into a national advocacy campaign and efforts to influence policy changes.

The Challenge

Shortage of 21st century skills in Romania is holding back young people, their families and the country as a whole. The Government and the business sector are concerned about both the lack of a skilled and qualified workforce and the numbers of qualified people leaving the country to work elsewhere. Research has highlighted that the skills needed in today’s age (critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication and creativity) are built in the early years, and without a solid foundation, these skills are harder to acquire later on. There is a need to make a stronger case for funding for early years services, as a way to bring long term benefits to the society, building capacity and human capital for future prosperity.

The power of early education and care to transform the lives and future development of very young children is highly dependent on the quality of the services provided. Early childhood professionals are critical to universally accessible, high-quality early childhood education and care provisions. Therefore, the initiative will support initial training, as well as on-going professional development and adequate support for professionals working in early childhood education and care services. Such support, recognition and adequate working conditions have positive impacts on the staff’s capacity, motivation and practices with young children, and thus children’s overall development and well-being.

There is commitment in the country to invest in the early years services. However, political will and new infrastructure on their own will not be enough to deliver the substantial benefits of a quality ECD strategy. The new facilities will need skilled staff delivering quality provisions. Resources from CEPD, ISSA, the Jacobs Foundation and UNICEF will be used to support quality early years services. The partners aim to drive a whole-system approach into a successful pilot, so that positive developments can take momentum and be replicated elsewhere.

Wide Reach

The target group for this project are all children up to six years of age in ten communities from Brasov County and ten from Bacau County selected for the pilot action, and in one district in the outskirts of Bucharest – altogether twenty-one municipalities – with an estimated number of 100 services for young children being engaged over the 4 years.

The estimated total reach within these communities concerns around 1500 children and their parents, 110 teachers and school principals, 65 ECD professionals in the locality (pediatricians, nurses, obstetricians, midwives, social workers, caregivers, school counsellors, school and health mediators) and 65 representatives of local and county authorities (county school inspectorate, county council, county health department, county child protection department, local councils, mayors).

Favorable context

Project partners are enthusiastic about the promising window of opportunity for revitalizing early childhood development in Romania because of recent and forthcoming legislation, commitment to investment in the early years and education in general, growing interest in ECD and increased professional capacity in local administration. The consortium plans to make good use of this opportunity and to leverage the models and approaches developed by all partners in the project. The aim is to collect important lessons-learnt and insights from this whole-system approach, that can be useful elsewhere in Romania and also in other countries.