07 SES 05 B, Re-Imagining Schooling and Pre-Schooling
Children services have been for some time central to the attention of scholars and policymakers because of their importance in minors’ biographies and educational itineraries, as evidenced by several pedagogical-educational theories and multiple empirical evidence (Aldmond & Currie, 2010; Schlutz, 2009). This interest has also been stimulated by impulses from the European Union which, since the Lisbon Objectives, has identified the promotion of, and participation in, early-infancy services as an essential element in the education of young generations (Brougere et al., 2008).
In many international contexts, academic performance starting from primary school and empirical evidence of difficulties encountered at that early stage by students – especially those of immigrant origin – have suscitated reflection on the role of obligatory pre-school educational paths (OECD, 2006, 2011). On one hand, the effect of such activities on the development of cognitive skills and on relations with primary school has been examined (Moss, 2013) and, on the other, why such activities have not been dedicated to the most culturally deprived families, those who would most benefit from them (Sime, 2014).
The behaviour of immigrant families has been identified as the main element to be examined in order to understand, and hopefully to combat, possible difficulties and resistance with specific policies (Hernandez, Denton, & Macarteney, 2011). Thus the early-education research thread has been enriched by the in-depth study of this subject (Tienda & Haskins 2011; Votruba-Drzal et al. 2013; Karoly & Gonzalez, 2011).
It is at this point to look at the theoretical model developed by Pungello and Kurts-Costes (2013) – which needs further focusing on – defining relations between immigrant families and early infancy services based on a set of factors: a) the parental couple’s demographic and socio-economic data; b) children’s characteristics; c) home-life circumstances: d) nature of fellow-nationals’ community; e) how parents bring up their children in terms of beliefs, values and orientation.
Further demographic and environmental factors should be integrated into this model. First of all, there is knowledge of the receiving society’s language. If poor, it makes finding and understanding information about existing services difficult; in which case one may turn to one’s community of origin to look after the children and provide pre-school care. Legal position and migratory seniority are important: whoever emigrated earlier may enjoy a more secure status and a wide-ranging family network in which one can trust (Buriel & Hurtado-Ortiz, 2000), or having already had socialisation experience with children’s services and having decided to share the country’s educational modalities and systems in an acculturation process (Vesely, 2013).
This contribution focuses on how intercultural (and inter-religious) relations are developed within preschool services, which are now on the forefront of academics and policy-makers attention. Indeed, two reasons justify this attention: on the one hand, the rate of foreign pupils attending pre-schooling activities increases and, on the other, debates and empirical evidence on the key role of early education in combatting schooling failure especially within migrant families encourage a relatively recent immigration country like Italy to focus on this issue. Before delving into the empirical materials, the paper first discusses the issue of early education within a multicultural context and then introduces the case of Italy and its current challenges from the point of view of nursery and infancy schools where the number of immigrant children is growing and the issue of how to cope with parents’ requests of taking into account religious differences raises. In the conclusion, we build on the insights of the Italian case study to reflect more broadly on the possibilities and limits of developing inter-religious activities and behaviours since pre-compulsory schools.
Almond, D., Currie, J. (2010). Human Capital Development before Age Five, NBER Working Papers 15827, National Bureau of Economic Research. Brougere, G., Guenif-Souilamas, N., Rayna, S. (2008). “Ecole maternelle (preschool) in France: a cross-cultural perspective,” European Early Childhood Education Research Journal,16 (4): 371-384. Capps, R., Fix, M. E., Ost, J., Reardon-Anderson, J., Passel, J.S. (2005), The health and well-being of young children of immigrants, Washington, DC: The Urban Institute. Hernandez, D.J. , Denton, N.A. Macartney, S.E., (2011). Early childhood education programs: Accounting for low enrollment in newcomer and native famiglie. In R.D. Alba, M.C. Waters (Eds.), The next generation: Immigrants in Europe and North America (pp. 46–68). New York: New York University Press,. Karoly, L. A., Gonzalez, G. (2011). “Early care and education for children in immigrant famiglie,” Future of Children 21 (1): 71–101. OECD (2006). Starting Strong II. Early childhood education and care. Paris: OECD. OECD (2011). Does participation in pre-primary education translate into better learnings outcomes at school ? Pisa in Focus, Paris: OECD. Schultz, P. (2009). “Between Language Acquisition Research and Educational Policy: Language Assessment in Early Childhood,” Journal Zeitschrift für Soziologie der Erziehung und Sozialisation 29 (2): 122-140. Sime, D. (2014). “You want the best for your kids’: improving educational outcomes for children living in poverty through parental engagement,” Journal Educational research 56(3): 327-342. Tienda, M., Haskins, R. (2011). “Immigrant children: Introducing the issue,” Future of Children 21 (1): 3–11. Votruba-Drzal, E., Coley, R., Koury, P. Miller, A.S. (2013). “Center-based child care and cognitive skills development: Importance of timing and household resources,” Journal of Educational Psychology 105: 821–838.
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