It is a well-known fact that cognitive stimulation in the first five years of life is closely linked to school and professional success. That’s why it’s so important for our poorest children to also have access to quality early education! And of course quality programs require highly qualified, committed teachers with good teaching tools”. Maria Gheorghiu, cofondator Asociația OvidiuRo
Years of interventions and programs fighting poverty through education and successfully testing the food coupons for kindergarten conditional on attendance – that are central to the Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță (Every Child in Kindergarten and Preschool) pilot program – have led to the passage of Law no.248/2015 aka The Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță Law – several years ahead of the 2020 goal OvidiuRo had set for reaching this objective.
Romania has since seen an increase in both registration and attendance of disadvantaged children. As of January 2017, 70,000 children are registered and 40,000 are benefitting from daily attendance and food coupons.
OvidiuRo – The Agency for Early Education
The Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță Law was a major step forward for Romanian education and social equity at the grassroots level. But it was just the first step.
Last year as we helped local authorities and school staff translate law into practice, we were struck, for instance, by the absence of children’s picture books in kindergartens. Even though most of the old schools had been renovated or replaced, only 15 out of the first 100 kindergartens we visited had a library corner or even a bookshelf, and none contained attractive picture books designed for preschoolers. Lack of training and resources caused many teachers to resort to handing out photocopied line drawings for children to color. Activities designed to develop children’s readiness for school were too often missing from regular daily activities.
Consequently, OvidiuRo has taken on the role of an Agency for Early Education, mobilizing resources from both private and public sector to ensure quality early education for all children. Investments focus on providing high quality education materials – and especially books -, training teachers in how to optimize these new resources and in enrolling all poor children in kindergarten.
Training teachers for quality early education
All the invited trainers share an educational philosophy that centers around the natural curiosity and needs of the child, critical thinking and continuous exploration. We invite all teachers who work with children in marginalized areas and wish to offer an enriched experience in class to attend our training module. Equally welcome are all education specialists who want to support preschool teachers in preventing functional illiteracy and school drop-out in disadvantaged communities” Maria Gheorghiu, cofondator Asociația OvidiuRo.
In June OvidiuRo conducted a series of one-day trainings to address the challenges of teaching young children in areas with high poverty rates. Teaming up with Asociația Learning by Teaching and Citim Împreună România, OvidiuRo met with over 600 teachers and education specialists attending the regional training sessions in Bistrita, Craiova, Focsani, Dambovita, Harghita, Hunedoara, Iasi, and Sibiu.
OvidiuRo was assisted by Betsy Grob, coauthor of: Learner-Centered Classrooms for the 21st Century, Brandi Bates, developer of the “Reading Together Romania” campaign, and Andreea Petcu, a Bucharest-based specialist in non-formal educational methods. The focus was on child centered teaching methods, promoting literacy through early Reading-Aloud activities, and teaching science through thematic activities – in order to equip teachers working with children from disadvantaged environments with a set of key-knowledge tools, best teaching practices, and a generous supply of educational resources to enrich their classrooms in the fall. Romstal provided transportation and Carrefour covered other workshop expenses and teaching kits. More info here.
The training sessions preceeded the 2017 Șotron Summer Schools – taking place in marginalized communities and high educational risk kindergartens. The Summer Schools’ role is to:
- Train teachers in interactive child-centered methods;
- Provide the trained teachers with immediate practice in these methods;
- Offer less advantaged children some rich summer learning experiences;
- Introduce poor parents to the education system in a low-stress setting;
- Utilize school facilities in the off-season.
More info on the Șotron Schools, here.