Public Policy Exchange organised a symposium in Brussels on 15 January 2019 on early childhood development and related systems that can help tackle inequalities. Parents International was invited as a speaker to bring in the parents’ perspective on the modernisation of childcare systems. Our contribution focused on the best interest of the child and parents. Other speakers included Nóra Milotay, a well-known international early childhood education expert currently working for the European Parliament Research Service.
Our contribution was focusing on the empowerment needs of parents, the first educators of their children, the need to acknowledge and value those parents, especially mothers, opting for care responsibilities rather than paid work, and the physical (breastfeeding) and psychological (separation anxiety) needs of very young children to be considered when developing early childhood policies.
The first years in human life are crucial for the development of essential competences, skills and learning dispositions that influence future education and employment prospects. According to the OECD Family Database, the participation rate for 0-to-2-years-olds in formal childcare and pre-school services is generally increasing across the EU, being on average of 30% rate. However, this number varies largely from one member state to another, varying between more than 60% in Denmark and 5% in the Czech Republic (OECD Family Database, 2016). Moreover, the GDP public spending on early childhood education and care is also differs (eg. 1.3% in Denmark, 0.4%GDP in the Czech Republic (OECD Family Database, 2017)).
In the EU early childhood development provisions are narrowed down to early childhood education and care institutional provisions driven by the 2002 Barcelona targets to provide childcare services to at least 33% of children under three years old. This is one of the EU provisions aiming at reducing the risk of inequities in opportunities of education and early school leaving. The EU is promoting easy access to childcare services for the official EU policy on the reconciliation of work and family life meaning promoting and incentivising young mothers to go back to work as soon as possible.
This international symposium, with the participation of relevant stakeholders, was also aiming at informing policy making by setting priorities for future policy recommendations and priorities, and it also made it possible to share ideas and inspiring practices from Europe and Canada.