Social inclusion through early childhood education and care
The presentation examines the role that childhood education and child care services can play in advancing social inclusion in society. It is based on the premise that in societies that provide a high degree of social inclusion, members enjoy equality, share social experiences and have the opportunity to take part in a meaningful way. This kind of inclusive society provides equality of life chances and offers all citizens a basic level of well-being. This definition of social inclusion features active policy and program development that has the aim of promoting human development, reducing barriers and creating the kind of community infrastructure that directly contributes to children's development.
The presentation argues that, under the right conditions, early childhood education and care (ECEC) can be a primary means to enhance this kind of social inclusion for children, families, women and communities. It examines the circumstances under which ECEC services contribute to social inclusion, and when they don't. Using a policy framework drawn from international comparative research, the policy and program elements that enable ECEC services to contribute to social inclusion are discussed. Finally, whether the current ECEC situation in Canada is constructed and supported in ways that contribute to social inclusion and the changes are needed to enable it to do so are discussed.
This presentation is based on a paper by the presenter and Donna Lero of the University of Guelph that was developed as part of the Laidlaw Foundation's Perspectives on Social Inclusion initiative.
Martha Friendly is Director, Childcare Resource and Research Unit and Adjunct Professor, Centre for Urban and Community Studies and co-author of the Canadian Background Report for the OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care (In preparation). She is also author of Child Care Policy in Canada: Putting the Pieces Together (1995), and numerous other academic, technical, and popular writings on child care, family and social policy. Recent publications include Early Childhood Education and Care in Canada 2001 (2002), Is this as good as it gets? Child care: A test case for assessing the Social Union Framework Agreement. (Canadian Review of Social Policy, 2001) and Social inclusion through early childhood education and care (Laidlaw Foundation, 2002). She has been actively involved in advocating for progressive social policy for many years and works closely with community groups as well as government policy makers, supporting formation of a universal system of early childhood education and care for all children.
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