UNESCO – Inclusion from the Start. Guidelines on inclusive early childhood care and education for Roma children

Like other children, Roma children have a right to education. That right is inviolable. It is frmly inscribed in international conventions, human rights treaties and ministers’ recommendations, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960) and the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers recommendation to member states on the education of Roma/ Gypsy children in Europe (2000). The right to education includes, as emphasised by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in its General Comment No. 7, the young child’s right to early childhood care and education services. Despite the adherence of European countries to such instruments and recommendations, Roma children still greatly sufer from persistent discrimination and exclusion from education. Today, as many as 50% of Roma children in Europe fail to complete primary education; no more than 20-25% attend secondary school, with the vast majority enrolled in vocational education; and less than 1% complete tertiary education. When young Roma children do enter school, they often feel unwelcome and unvalued by their teachers and non-Roma peers. Far too high a proportion of Roma children are placed in special classes within public sector schools, or they are routed to special schools with children with disabilities. Sadly, exclusion, discrimination, segregation, poverty and disempowerment are the norm for many Roma children. We must act frmly and urgently to change this situation. One strategy with great potential is promoting inclusive early childhood education for Roma children. Access to quality early childhood education – be it in the form of home- or community-based childcare, parenting education and support, or kindergartens and pre-schools – is shown to lay a strong foundation in young children for later well-being, development and learning. It can reduce and prevent social and learning difculties, as well as disabilities, by ensuring early intervention and support. Equally important, the presence of Roma children in classrooms can nurture, in all young minds and hearts, the importance of living together, and of equal and inclusive treatment for all without distinction. Inclusion from the start: guidelines on inclusive early childhood care and education for Roma children is the fruit of joint collaboration between the Council of Europe and UNESCO, which are committed to supporting the well-being and fourishing of Roma children and their right to education and development from birth. It is a concrete follow-up to the recommendations arising from an expert meeting on “Toward quality education for Roma children: transition from early childhood to primary education” organised in 2007 by the two bodies. It is hoped that the Guidelines will incite greater attention to, and above all, appropriate actions for, young Roma children by providing clear policy and programmatic pointers to conceiving an inclusive early childhood care and education system.

Area:   Europe

Language:   English