The I.ECEC Project long-term general objective is to contribute to the improvement of the social inclusion of disadvantaged children and the development of their skills necessary to ensure equal opportunities in the subsequent schooling and the achievement of good learning outcomes: preschool education has the higher performance in terms of results and social inclusion of children and prevention of Early School Leaving.
The EU experiences a drastic change in its socio-cultural composition given the high level of migration (Eurydice Report 2009: 3% of children under 6 years in Europe are foreigners, given strong growth). A strong risk of social exclusion is poverty, often related to gender, belonging to an ethnic minority, to the status of migrants, asylum seekers/recognised refugees.
Studies agree that early (preschool) education is essential for school success, for preventing early school leaving and for the cultural and social integration of children, but also, indirectly, for families. Furthermore, good preschool care supports women's access to the labor market, and this is crucial for socio-economic integration and achieving a decent standard of living for migrant families, asylum seekers/recognised refugees, members of ethnic minorities. For example, in Hungary the unemployment rate of Roma women is 95%.
Reducing ESL rates is an essential objective of Europe 2020 Strategy, and EU countries have committed to reduce the early leavers to less than 10 % by 2020. ESL can lead to reduced opportunities in labor market and an increased likelihood of unemployment, poverty, health problems and reduced participation in political, social and cultural activities. Furthermore, these negative consequences have an impact on the next generation and may perpetuate the occurrence of early leaving.
Migrant background, ethnicity, socio-economic circumstances, factors related to the education and training system are some of the elements implicated to the process leading students to leave education and training early. Students from migrant families, minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds are more prone to ESL than other groups. Low socio-economic status is one of the key factors that can increase the risk of early leaving.
European education systems must pay due regard to the intercultural approach in curricula. The intercultural approach enable schools to manage the cultural diversity of different societies, which has expanded following the migratory movements of recent decades.
Early Childhood Education and Care can lower the risk of ESL: the preschool education has the highest returns in terms of results and social adaptation of children. Non-participation in ECEC, difficulties in accessing high quality education, not least as a result of socio-economic segregation, lack of parental support, insufficient skills in the language of instruction: all have an impact on the attainment of migrant students (European Commission, 2013b).
The I.ECEC project aims to contribute to improve ECEC services quality and to strengthen the profile of the ECEC educators, to achieve to a more inclusive and supportive ECEC with special attention to children from vulnerable groups, for combating social exclusion, reducing poverty and fight early school leaving.
The I.ECEC project designed, implemented and tested a new educational model and curriculum for ECEC providers and professionals, to improve their skills and the quality of ECEC services, starting from the Context and Training Needs Analysis held by the previous ERASMUS+ KA2 MECEC+: a comparative analysis on Early Childhood Education in 3 EU countries, with attention to the training and educational needs of educators.
I.ECEC proposes an innovative Intercultural Early Childhood Education model and curriculum to educators and ECEC providers, applicable to university courses, to answer to the real needs of children and their families and of ECEC providers, in this historical key moment in Europe. The project develops thanks to the collaboration between universities and companies (public and private), which share and develop their knowledge, good practices, methodologies to achieve the common goal of improvement of the quality and inclusivity of early childhood educational services.
Transnational collaboration is valuable because, even if the contexts present differences, it's a challenge at a European level, due to the changes in the European population resulting from strong immigration, and the commitment of Member States on Europe 2020 Strategy of social inclusion of disadvantaged people, combating social exclusion, reducing poverty and fight early school leaving. These issues have been addressed in different Member States using different methods and tools, which are shared and implemented within the project, ensuring an enrichment at partners level, and at local and European level.