Support for Comprehensive Early Childhood Services - Primokiz Pilot in Romania
By using the well-established knowledge brought by the Primokiz approach together with the experience and results from the INTESYS project, ISSA continues to work on enabling policies and practices for building integrated early childhood services. The Primokiz pilot project in Romania is a collaboration between the Step by Step Center for Education and Professional Development - CEDP, UNICEF in Romania, the International Step by Step Association - ISSA and the Jacobs Foundation in Switzerland.
The overall objective of the four-year project Romania Grows with You is to create a paradigm shift and push the agenda forward in early childhood policies and practice in Romania, targeting children aged birth to six years old, while making the case for the importance of high-quality early years services. Among other resources, the Primokiz approach will be used to foster the development of a strong and comprehensive network of local decision-making bodies, professionals and public and private actors to work together on analyzing the current situation and developing a common vision and strategy for the early years services provision. The approach creates links between health, social care and education sectors and across all relevant institutions and interest groups, vertically and horizontally. The initiative uses models and methodologies developed by the partners, including the resources from ISSA and CEPD on supporting quality early childhood development, the Jacobs Foundation’s Primokiz approach and UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) resource package. This systemic approach with a strong focus on quality is used in two counties in Romania – Bacau and Brasov - in a pilot phase. The experiences will feed directly into a national advocacy campaign and efforts to influence policy changes.
This Primokiz pilot will develop a strong network of administrative, professional and private actors at the local level who will work together to analyze the current situation, develop a vision of future ECD provision, and build links between health, social care and education and across all relevant institutions and interest groups, vertically and horizontally. They will adapt existing services or provide new ones as needed to meet the community needs identified in the situation analysis and identify ways to design and implement these.
Shortage of 21st century skills in Romania is holding back young people, their families and the country as a whole. The Government and the business sector are concerned about both the lack of a skilled and qualified workforce and the numbers of qualified people leaving the country to work elsewhere. Research has highlighted that the skills needed in today’s age (critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication and creativity) are built in the early years. Without a solid foundation, these skills are harder to acquire later on. There is a need to make a stronger case for funding for early years services, as a way to bring long term benefits to the society, building capacity and human capital for future prosperity.
The power of early education and care to transform the lives and development of very young children is highly dependent on the quality of the services provided. Early childhood professionals are critical to universally accessible, high-quality early childhood education and care. The initiative supports training, on-going professional development and adequate support to them. Such support, recognition and adequate working conditions have positive impacts on the staff’s capacity, motivation and practices with young children, and children’s overall development and well-being.
Using the Primokiz approach, the project aims to establish local teams and networks which bring together the different sectors, institutions and stakeholders enabling them to work together effectively for responsive quality and equitable early childhood services for children from birth to 6 years of age.
The target group for this project are all children up to six years of age in eleven communities from Brasov County and 11 from Bacau County selected for the pilot action – altogether 22 municipalities – with an estimated number of 100 services for young children being engaged over the four years.
The estimated total reach within these communities is approximately 1500 children and their parents, 110 teachers and school principals, 65 ECD professionals in the locality (pediatricians, nurses, obstetricians, midwives, social workers, caregivers, school counsellors, school and health mediators) and 65 representatives of local and county authorities (county school inspectorate, county council, county health department, county child protection department, local councils, mayors). The learnings from this pilot will ground the process of approaching other counties and expanding the place-based commitment to quality early years services for all.
Inter-sectoral coordination in early childhood systems: the Primokiz approach by Konstantina Rentzou, Mihaela Ionescu, Philine Zimmerli and Cristiana Boca.