Early childhood education and care (ECEC) provides the basis of lifelong learning and has become a policy priority in most European countries. Research, conducted by the OECD and the European Commission, recognises that ECEC brings a wide range of benefits, such as social and economic, better child well-being and learning outcomes, more equitable outcomes, reduction of poverty and better social and economic development for society at large.
In 2012, the OECD produced “Country-policy profiles” focusing on issues related to quality of ECEC in various countries. These reports suggest key strengths and point to areas for further reflection on current policy initiatives. With regard to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, similar areas for improvement have been identified. Common key challenges have been pointed out, among which are:
The Good Start to School (GSS) project is addressing the above areas for improvement through designing and implementing an innovative toolkit for evaluation of critical learning areas. The key intellectual output will be used by key stakeholders in ECEC – teachers and parents, to support them in sharing the responsibility for attaining educational objectives and boost active communication in order to balance the diverse expectations in relation to curricula content and adequateness of pre-school activities.
There are three main target groups, whose needs are directly addressed by the GSS project:
Children in preschool education level need to acquire key competencies, as well as “knowledge and skills needed for primary school and further learning to facilitate smooth transitions between education levels” (UNESCO, 2004).
Research demonstrates that ECEC teacher-initiated learning (common in the academic approach) can reduce early knowledge gaps in literacy, language and numeracy. However, in order to increase their efficiency, teachers in ECEC need the support of the parents, for implementing such educational activities that would consider the development of every child, having more respect for their individual skills and abilities, a better approach to their forming personality, and taking into account their socioeconomic background.
A more effective involvement of parents in preschool education may serve as the starting point of successful cooperation with teachers and at the same time leads to strengthening parents’ responsibility for the child’s education and learning. This is most valid for parents with low social-economic background or immigrants.