04 SES 03 E, Leadership, Democracy And Inclusion In Pre-Primary Education: How Far Have We Gone?
The main goal of this paper is to report experiences and findings from the final year of the implementation of the project “Monitoring Inclusiveness of Preschool Education in Serbia” funded by the Fund for an Open Society, Serbia.
In order to develop a comprehensive framework of indicators of the quality of the preschool education, multiple sources have been used: current researches onto inclusive education in Europe and Serbia since 2009; the legal framework for inclusive education and experiences with measures ﬂowing from the legal framework for inclusive education in Serbia; the structure and indicators identified throw the comparative analysis
of education quality assurance and external evaluation systems of
Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales; and Framework for monitoring inclusive education in Serbia and findings of the first monitoring study of inclusiveness of primary and secondary education in Serbia (Kovač Cerović et al., 2014; Kovač Cerović et al., 2016).
Early childhood is widely recognized as a crucial period for learning and development, thus, making the question of quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC) important for policy makers (European Agency, 2017). From the society’ point of view research findings suggest that the most return from investments in education is given by investments in early development and learning (Heckman, 2008).
Concept of inclusion encapsulates different viewpoints, depending on the interpreter and focus. Devarakonda summarizes the concept as conglomerate of diversity, removing barriers, equal opportunities, respect, celebration of differences, meeting needs, ongoing processes, overcoming exclusion, better access, and increasing participation (Devarakonda, 2013). Therefore, a complex matrix of monitoring areas and sub-areas at the national, local and school levels and defining input, output/outcome and process parameters, has been developed. This has provided the basis for systematic multi-layered monitoring of inclusive
preschool education at diﬀerent levels.
Internationally recognized key principles of ECEC inclusion inspired strategies and measures which results in reducing barriers for learning and participation, which leads to appreciation and respect for all types of differences and prevention of hierarchies based on those differences (Booth & Ainscow, 2002). The key principle is to create such educational setting where all children are included under the same circumstances, where they all feel like they belong and where they all could progress to their full potential (European Commission, 2014). More specific definition is focused on three key principles of ECEC inclusion: access, participation and support (Joint Position Statement, 2009). Access refers to providing access to different learning opportunities. Participation focuses on enabling additional individualized accommodations and supports for some children so they could participate fully in play and learning activities with peers and adults. An infrastructure of systems-level supports is important and necessary because it undergirds the efforts of individuals and organizations providing inclusive services to children and families (ibid).
The Framework for Evaluation of Preschool Education Inclusiveness in Serbia is built in respect with these principles. It includes the matrix of input, process and output indicators, estimated by different stakeholders, with special attention on the perceptions and experience of the sensitive groups’ parents and children.
The Framework for Evaluation of Preschool Education Inclusiveness in Serbia, developed within this project, defines indicators of inclusive preschool education in three domains: Inclusive pedagogical practice, Inclusive ethos and culture and Support to inclusiveness. The indicators are accompanied with short instruments for different stakeholders (i.e. parents, preschool teachers, preschool associates and children). Thus, the battery is consisting of 25 instruments, which can be used individually, in various functionally related sets, or as a whole, depending on the need, i.e. the goal of monitoring and evaluation. It is possible to single out the perspective of only one interest group related to multiple areas, or to compare the perspective of different stakeholders with respect to a single minor number of key topics, or to make combinations at will and need. The logic of data collection requires that data should be collected at the lowest levels – school, class, individual level; however, the data can only be considered useful for policy monitoring when they are appropriately aggregated at the preschool institution level and forwarded to higher administration levels for further analysis. If the preschool level fails as a data source, valid data will not be available to the municipal and national levels. In February 2019 the set of research instruments are planned to be applied, with the main goal to determine the level of development of inclusiveness of pre-school education in Serbia. The planned stratified random sample includes 20 preschool institutions, and the stratification is based on the municipality development index. At the level of a preschool institution, a sample would include at least 30 preschool teachers and 30 parents. Sample of parents will include also parents of children from vulnerable groups (e.g. parents of children educated by Individual Educational Plan and children who enrolled the preschool institution based on measure of affirmative action) and other parents. Parents of children from vulnerable groups would constitute at least 15% of sample of parents. Moreover, the perspective of children on their wellbeing and social integration, on social acceptance of children from vulnerable groups, as well as on the inclusiveness of preschool environment will be included. The exploratory methodology on which the research is based will enable the collection of different data that can be further analysed through correlative research plans in order to find out the relations between the characteristics of the context and the inclusiveness of the preschool institution.
Selected findings on the current state of inclusive preschool education in Serbia will be presented. Despite the internationalisation of the philosophy of inclusive education, for a range of historical, cultural, social and financial reasons its implementation has been uneven across the world (Mitchell, 2010). Therefore, having in mind contextual sensitivity of inclusive education, the analysis of data will be tuned to an individualized, strengths-based approach. We will try to shed light on a unique set of strengths and challenges of inclusive preschool education in Serbia. The methodology enables us to assess achievement of predefined quality indicators, as well as to identify level of agreement between different stakeholders regarding achievement of indicators. Based on these two criteria we will identify domains in which the preschool education system in Serbia demonstrates quality above expectations, as well as to identify challenges for further development of inclusive preschool education. Domains characterized as strengths or opportunities are those in which there is high consensus of respondents that the preschool education system in Serbia demonstrates quality above expectations. Domains in which expected developments have been hindered or specific obstacles arose will be identified taking into consideration several criteria (Kovač Cerović et al., 2016): Agreement of different informants that a particular aspect of inclusiveness is underdeveloped; Discrepancy between different informants in their perception of a particular aspect; Statistically significant difference between evaluations of children and/or parents from vulnerable groups and other children/parents; Extremely negative perception of a particular area by at least one informant.
Booth, T. & Ainscow, M. (2002). Indeks za inkluziju. Beograd: CSIE - Centar za izučavanje inkluzivnog obrazovanja. English version available at: https://www.eenet.org.uk/resources/docs/Index%20English.pdf (Last accessed: 08.06.2018.) Devarakonda, C. (2013). Diversity and Inclusion in Early Childhood. An Introduction. London: Sage. European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. (2017). Inclusive Early Childhood Education: New Insights and Tools – Final Summary Report. (M. Kyriazopoulou, P. Bartolo, E. Björck-Åkesson, C. Giné and F. Bellour, eds.). Odense, Denmark European Commission (2014). Proposal for key principles of a Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care. Report of the Working Group on Early Childhood Education and Care under the auspices of the European Commission. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/assets/eac/education/policy/strategic-framework/archive/documents/ecec-quality-framework_en.pdf (Last accessed: 21. 06. 2018.) Joint Position Statement of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (2009). Available at: https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/DEC_NAEYC_EC_updatedKS.pdf Kovač Cerović, T., Pavlović Babić, D., Jovanović, O., Jovanović, V., Jokić, T., Rajović, V., & Baucal, I. (2016). First comprehensive monitoring of inclusive education in Serbia: Selected findings. In N. Gutvajn & M. Vujačić (Eds.), Challenges and perspectives of inclusive education (pp. 15–30). Belgrade: Institute for Educational Research. Kovač Cerović, T., Pavlović Babić, D., Jokić, T., Jovanović, O., & Jovanović, V. (2014). Monitoring Framework for Inclusive Education in Serbia. Belgrade: Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit and UNICEF. Heckman, J. (2008). Schools, skills and synapses. Economic Inquiry, 46, 289–324. Mitchell, D. (2010). Education that Fits: Review of international trends in the education of students with special educational needs. Christchurch: University of Canterbury.
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