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Developing and implementing a framework and process to monitor and improve quality of ECEC services in Serbia. Consulting report for UNICEF SERBIA

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Abstract

This report commissioned by UNICEF Serbia is analysing the quality of ECEC system in Serbia. The European Commission proposal for Key Principles for a Quality Framework in ECEC was chosen as a framework to look at the quality of the ECEC system in Serbia . The findings of this report were based on desk review of existing documents about Serbia, and on two country visits (in total eight days). During those country visits, we did consultations with a wide range of ECEC actors and we did also field visits of preschools.
Developing and implementing a framework and
process to monitor and improve the quality of ECEC
services in Serbia
Consulting report for UNICEF Serbia
Dr. Jan Peeters
Ghent University
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Introduction
Purpose of the mission in Serbia
UNICEF is supporting reforms in ECEC, which are led by the MOESTD, in cooperation with partners
and are focused on strengthening of the legal and institutional capacities of preschool education.
The process is supported through various initiatives, which include: piloting of new draft of
preschool curriculum, revision of current framework for quality evaluation, developing a Network of
practitioners as the support to preschool education (PAN), improvement of inclusive practices etc.
This report is built on the work of the UNICEF CEE CIS regional office related to the Assessment of
the quality of ECEC. The proposal for Key Principles for a Quality Framework in ECEC was chosen as
a framework to look at the quality of the ECEC system in Serbia
1
. Based on the Eurydice report of
2014 and on several recently published European studies (see further in the text), we formulated
some questions that give indicators for the five key principles of the EQF: accessibility, workforce,
curriculum, monitoring and evaluation and governance and funding.
1
Working Group on Early Childhood Education and Care under the auspices of the European Commission (2014). Proposal for Key
Principles for a Quality Framework in ECEC. Brussels, European Commission.
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1 Methodology
The findings of this report were based on desk review of existing documents (in English) about
Serbia, and on two country visits (in total eight days). During those country visits, we did
consultations with a wide range of ECEC actors and we did also field visits of preschools. During the
country visits, we also attended a conference on ‘Key dimensions of quality development in ECEC’
and gave training in Belgrade. Between 2012 and 2014 we were involved in the IMPRES project in
Serbia and we worked for more than four weeks in Serbia during that period. We did several field
visits and wrote a Manual for diversification of programs for preschool education as co-author. In
annex 1 one can also find a list of the documents that were used and of the persons and
organisations that were interviewed. In the annex one can also find an overview of different
preschool institutions that we visited.
2 The need for a quality framework that starts from a common
vision on quality in ECEC
Since 2000 there were increasing requests from European member states and candidate member
states to address the issue of quality of ECEC provision (Milotay, 2016). The Communication of the
Commission on ‘Early Childhood Education and Care: providing all our children with the best start
for the world of tomorrow’ adopted in 2011, responded to this request. The Communication wanted
the Commission to take actions with the aim of improving access and quality of services from birth
to the start of compulsory schooling. The Commission took the initiative to set up a thematic
working group of 25 member states plus Norway and Turkey to exchange and synthesise their policy
experiences, analyse and compare policy options, collect European research about successful
policies and make recommendations for good policy practice. Between 2012 and 2014 the Working
group members from education, social and family affairs worked together using peer-learning
methodology, country visits exchange of policy experience.
The group distilled from this range of policies, research and practice the key issues for quality within
these five broad areas. All of this led to the design of a proposal for a Quality Framework in ECEC,
which was published in the final report of the group in the autumn of 2014. The proposal was
presented as a framework that embraced the diversity of ECEC systems in member states and
candidate member states.
Nora Milotay (2016, p.123)
2
who co-ordinated from the side of the Commission this working group
puts it this way: ‘The end-product (the framework proposal) is an open, flexible tool that is built
upon a strong core, which contains clearly articulated values and principles that allow for multiple
paths to achieving common goals and that scaffolds change and development regardless of the
starting point. The working group gave a concrete answer if it was useful to put another layer of
‘regulation’ above the one already existing in the member states and candidate member states. In
other words, why have a European Framework? The expert members of the group saw EQF/ECEC as
an efficient means to create the right policy osmosis around the ECEC issue, raise the profile of
ECEC and possibly protect it from budget cuts that it has been threatened by in many Member
States (Milotay, 2016, p.124).
In the annex 2 we describe other quality frameworks that have been developed by international
organisations and NGO’s. UNICEF Serbia has chosen as a framework to analyse the quality of ECEC
in Serbia the EQF (like UNICEF CEE CIS regional Office did for analysing the quality in ECEC in
2
Milotay, N. (2016) From Research to Policy: the case of early childhood and care . IN Vandenbroeck, Urban & Peeters, Pathways to
Professionalism in ECEC. Routledge, London, New York.
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Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro) and not the other international
frameworks for the following reasons:
1 Serbia is a candidate member state for joining the EU. Therefore are focused on the EU
recommendations also in the ECEC field.
2 The EQF is scientifically based (Lazzari 2014).
3 The EQF was recently published (November 2014) and has been inspired by the other
frameworks mentioned in annex 2.
4 The EQF has been developed during a long period of more than two years, with workshops
in different EU countries by a large group of around 50 people coming from 25 different
countries, consisting of researchers, stakeholders and policymakers.
5 The EQF includes all aspects of quality, from accessibility over workforce and curriculum,
mentoring and governance.
6 The EQF is a broad framework; it can be filled in by concrete quality criteria in different
contexts.
7 There is a link between this framework and important policy research that has been
commissioned by DG E&C in recent years (CoRe, 2011; ECEC ESL, 2014; Eurofound, 2017,
CARE, 2016) (see chapter 3).
At the time of the fieldwork in Serbia (June 2017), the European Commission had not yet published
indicators of the EQF that can be used to analyse the quality of ECEC. Those indicators will only be
published end-2018. Therefore we used the indicators for EQF that were developed in 2016 to
analyse the quality in four neighbouring countries of Serbia (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Kosovo and Montenegro). Those indicators were based on recent policy research that was
commissioned by the European Commission, that we describe in the following paragraph. .
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3 European and International Policy Research on quality used in
this report to formulate indicators for the EQF.
Here we refer to important recently published European and international studies on quality in
ECEC.
The role of ECEC in preventing early school leaving (European Commission,
DG E&C, 2012-2014)
3
Early learning and school readiness are crucial concepts in the UNICEF policy in the region (Multi-
Country Evaluation, 2014). The ECEC-ESL study did a literature research on the concept of school
readiness. According to the traditional understanding, the transition to school has been framed
around concept of children’s “school readiness”. In this case, the role of early childhood education
and care is understood in preparation of children for schools, so that they develop necessary skills
and abilities to be able to cope with school programme. This can result in a ‘Danger of
schoolification’ of ECEC. As a result, in an effort to prepare children for academic programmes of
primary schools, preschool systems adopt school-like characteristics, which prevents early
childhood education systems from focusing on psychology and natural learning strategies of
children (OECD, 2006). The focus on school readiness in the pre-primary programmes (like the
preschool preparatory programme in Serbia of 4h a day / 9 months a year) involves risk for
schoolification. Therefore the findings of the ECEC-ESL study are important: “More recent thinking
about the transition to school recognises that ‘school readiness does not reside solely in the child,
but reflects the environments in which children find themselves” (Nolan et al., 2009
4
). This
perspective has contributed to the re-conceptualisation of the nature of “school readiness” and of
how best to promote positive transitions to school. School readiness is now seen as a combination
of four essential components: ready families + ready communities + ready ECEC + ready schools
= ready children.
The ECEC-ESL study also focuses on another important part for Serbia: the effectiveness of pre-
primary and half-day programs. The EPPE study (Sylva et al., 2004)
5
concluded that children who
start preschool education earlier (e.g. from the age of 3) have a significant advantage over those
children who attend only one year of the preschool before entry into primary school. Recently the
EPPE study came to the conclusion that half a day programs of at least fifteen hours a week
(around 500 hours a year during three years) have the same positive effect as full day programs
(Melhuish, 2013).
The ECEC-ESL study concludes also (p. 20) that ECEC provisions do not need to be targeted at
families “at risk”. Structural provisions addressing the general population, but with specific support
for families at risk, (the so-called progressive universalism approach) are more effective than
targeted provisions. Vulnerable children benefit the most from ECEC when it is provided in the
context of social mix.
3
Rimantas, D., Peeters, J., Hayes, N., Van Landeghem, G., Siarova, H., Peciukonytė, L., Cenerić,I & Hulpia, H. (2014). Study on the
effective use of Early Childhood Education and Care in preventing early school leaving. Brussels: European Commission DG E&C
4
Nolan, A., Hamm, C., McCartin, J., Hunt, Scott, C., and Barty, K.(2009) Outcomes and Indicators of a Positive Start to School: Report
prepared by Victoria University for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Melbourne: Victoria University
5
Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P., Siraj-Blatchford, Taggart, B. (2004). The Effective Provision of Preschool Education Project
University of London/ Nottingham Melhuish, E. Key nota at the TFIEY, Ghent January 2003.
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‘CoRe’ study: Competence requirements to work in ECEC, European
Commission DG E&C (CoRe, 2011
6
; Vandenbroeck, Urban, Peeters, 2016
7
)
From 2009 until 2011 the European Commission DG E&C commissioned a study on the
competences that are required to work in ECEC.
The results of this study in fifteen European countries are of great importance for analysing the
strengths and weaknesses of the initial training and the continuous professional development in
Serbia. We mention here in more detail the recommendations of this study that are of importance
for the possible reform of the initial and in-service training Serbia:
Ensure equal and reciprocal relation theory/practice:
Besides the obvious and essential body of knowledge and the acquisition of specific skills, it
is crucial that graduates are offered possibilities to build reflective capacities. Therefore,
reciprocal relationships between theory and practice are essential.
Build leadership capacity:
Effective leadership is seen as a ‘major factor in shaping the overall teaching and learning
environment, raising aspirations and providing support for children, parents and staff
(Council of the European Union, 2009). Therefore the training and the professional
development of directors is crucial.
Rethink professional development:
The quality of services and the competence level of staff depend on, but are not only the
result of, individual initial preparation. Different pathways to professionalism are possible
and there is ample evidence, both from literature and from the case studies, that
comprehensive and long-term in-service professional development initiatives can yield
beneficial effects equal to those of initial professional preparation. Short-term in-service
training courses (e.g. a few days per year), however, are not sufficient. This demands a re-
think of existing approaches to continuing professional development towards more
sustained and comprehensive approaches based on pedagogical mentoring and on learning
from practice.
Importance of alignment between training competence profile and professional
competence profile.
Need for Policies that address entire ECEC system:
CoRe recommends to invest in a competent system because professionalisation is multi-
layered. A competent system should be developed within all levels of the ECEC system,
which has the capacity to implement the necessary innovations. The following necessary
measures have to be taken to support the process of change.
o A competent system on the level of the individual practitioner/ heads of
preschool institutions:
At least 60% need to have a bachelor training.
All workers of the services are provided with a wide range of courses concerning
children, parents, teams and the community. It is important that they can choose
between different models: courses for individual workers and peer groups for
workers representing their institution.
6
Urban, M., Vandenbroeck, M., Peeters, J. Lazzari, A., Van Laere, K. (2011). CoRe Final report. Brussels European Commission.
7
Vandenbroeck, M., Urban, M. &Peeters, J. (eds.) (2016) Pathways to Professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care. London, New
York: Routledge.
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o A competent system on the team/institution level:
To introduce innovations in an effective way CoRe recommend to link more
theoretical courses to coaching sessions in the teams so that the practitioners can
implement the new knowledge in their practice.
CoRe recommends organising an introduction course for teams of new preschool
institutions. During this course, members of the new team develop a common
pedagogical vision based on the curriculum or the strategic goals.
Another CPD initiative that is effective is a yearly study day for the whole workforce
of the institution.
o A competent system on the city level (or regional level):
It is important to invest in a coherent policy towards professional development for
the whole workforce:
Organising peer groups and learning communities on the goals of the
strategic planning;
Implementing new child-centred approaches;
Trainings for pedagogical coaches;
Annual Pedagogical Conferences for the whole workforce of a city, a region or
a large ECEC organisation on the strategic planning. In these conferences,
practitioners from different services can present innovative projects around
the implementation of the strategic planning towards colleagues of other
preschool institutions;
Peer groups with a focus on exchanging interesting practices among different
preschool institutions, are highly appreciated by practitioners and are
powerful tools in changing pedagogical practices;
The coaches, NGO’s and the universities must get the financial opportunities
to developed instruments and ICT applications to use in coaching sessions.
o A competent system on the level of the Government:
The government must install democratic advisory groups chaired by respected
independent experts. We think of advisory groups on different policy aspects
of new strategic goals, but also advisory groups on the development of
professional competences profiles and training competences profiles of the
ECEC worker, on the development of a new curriculum and also the
improvement of working conditions.
The government must provide financial resources so that the sector can
develop a coherent system of in-service training.
The government must provide child free hours for team meetings and
coaching sessions.
o A competent system inspired by International Networks and European
innovation projects:
An active participation in international networks is of major importance to increase
the quality of ECEC. Participation in European projects, in UNICEF projects and in
international networks and others can give inspiration for implementing the
innovations. CoRe recommends: Systematically encourage, fund and build
transnational and multidimensional networks and critical learning communities of
practitioners, parents, local and national policymakers and academics”.
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Eurofound Systematic review: which CPD interventions are effective?
(Eurofound: Peeters, et al., 2015)
8
The system of Continuous Professional Development is rather weak in Serbia and has to be
rethought. The Eurofound systematic review (based on nearly 20 000 studies on CPD) gives
evidence-based arguments on which CPD interventions are effective and it gives concrete
recommendation in which direction the CPD reform in Serbia could be directed. The Eurofound
study shows that the system of Continuous Professional Development has an impact on increasing
the quality of ECEC and has an impact on child outcomes when the programs are intensive and are
implemented for at least two years.
Critical factors for success are:
the active involvement of practitioners in the transformative process for the
improvement of educational practices within ECEC settings;
programs are focused on practitioners learning in practice, in dialogue with colleagues
and parents;
a mentor or coach is available during non-contact hours;
the program has to be embedded in a coherent pedagogical framework or curriculum
that builds upon research and addresses local needs.
European CARE-project on Innovative approaches to in-service continuous
professional development (CPD) in ECEC policy and practices throughout
Europe. Findings from a comparative review by Jensen and Iannone
(2015)
9
, Jensen and Rasmussen, (2016)
10
, Bove et al., (2016)
11
and Jensen
and Iannone (2016)
12
.
The authors of the CARE study conclude that CPD no longer concerns itself with merely
practitioners’ knowledge and skills. Rather, it encompasses critical thinking, reflexivity and co-
creation within and across ECEC systems. Two overall different approaches to innovation in ECEC
emerged: on the one hand, some countries’ CPD can be characterised as highly innovative as they
have a long tradition of innovation in ECEC, or they have realised that new challenges in a
postmodern society set the scene for new forms of CPD in ECEC policy, research and practice.
Another approach to innovation in ECEC is characterised as developing. In these countries, there is
no national definition of innovation related to ECEC even though there is a growing awareness of
the need to improve quality in ECEC. Finally, three additional insights were identified as crucial
8
Peeters, J., Lazzari, A., Cameron, C., Budginaite, I., Hauari H., Peleman, B. & Siarova, H. (2015). Early Childhood Care: working
conditions, training and quality - A systematic review. Dublin: Eurofound
9
Jensen, B., & Iannone, R. L. (2015). D3.1 613318. CARE. Curriculum Quality Analysis and Impact Review of European ECEC CARE.
Instrument: Collaborative project. Call Identifier: FP7-SSH-2013-2. Early childhood education and care: Promoting quality for individual,
social and economic benefits. D3.1: Comparative Review of Professional Development Approaches. Curriculum Quality Analysis and Impact
Review of European ECEC CARE. Report. Retrieved from http://ecec-care.org/resources/publications/
10
Jensen, P., & Rasmussen, A. W. (2016). D3.2 613318. CARE. Curriculum Quality Analysis and Impact Review of European ECEC CARE.
Instrument: Collaborative project. Call Identifier: FP7-SSH-2013-2. Early childhood education and care: Promoting quality for individual,
social and economic benefits. D3.2 Professional Development and its Impact on Children in Early Childhood Education and Care: A Meta-
Analysis Based on European Studies. Report. Retrieved from http://ecec-care.org/resources/publications/
11
Bove, C., Mantovani, S., Jensen, B., Karwowska-Struczyk, M., & Wysłowska, O. (2016). D3.3 613318. CARE. Curriculum Quality Analysis
and Impact Review of European ECEC CARE. Instrument: Collaborative project. Call Identifier: FP7-SSH-2013-2. Early childhood education
and care: Promoting quality for individual, social and economic benefits. CARE Curriculum Quality Analysis and Impact Review of European
ECEC. D3.3. Report on “Good Practice” Case Studies of Professional Development in Three Countries. Retrieved from http://ecec-
care.org/resources/publications/
12
Jensen, B., & Iannone, R. L. (2016). D3.4 613318. CARE. Curriculum Quality Analysis and Impact Review of European ECEC CARE.
Instrument: Collaborative project. Call Identifier: FP7-SSH-2013-2. Early childhood education and care: Promoting quality for individual,
social and economic benefits. D3.4: Recommendations for common policy across the EU regarding professional development as an element of
quality in ECEC and child wellbeing for all. Report. Retrieved from http://ecec-care.org/resources/publications/
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aspects of CPD in terms of innovation: 1) critical reflection; 2) communities of practice and 3) an
emerging focus on politics addressing vulnerability through ECEC.
The NESET II study: Transforming European ECEC services and schools into
professional learning communities
13
This recent study on Professional Learning Communities (November 2017) was set up within the
NESET II network of researchers on Inclusive Education (European Commission). The complex multi-
diverse societies in which we live, make it impossible today to find standardized solutions for all
families/children. Negotiation and reflection are essential competences to be achieved by
practitioners/teachers in ECEC services and schools in order to contextualize pedagogical practice
and adapt it to the diversity of children and families.
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are a valuable answer in this direction. PLCs can be
described as ‘a group of people sharing and critically interrogating their practice in an on-going,
reflective, collaborative, inclusive, learning-oriented, growth-promoting way. The purpose of PLCs
is to support ECEC and school staff, both emotionally and professionally, by allowing them to
critically reflect on their own teaching and to share concrete ideas on how to improve the wellbeing
and the learning experience of children and families.
Building up on the literature review, this study suggests that the following five criteria be used to
define a PLC:
1 Teachers frequently engage in ‘reflective and in-depth dialogues’ with colleagues about
educational matters based on their daily practice.
2 Teachers move from the classroom doors in a ‘deprivatisation of practices’, by observing
each other’s practices, giving feedback, planning jointly, building relationships with the
neighbourhood, and engaging in dialogue with parents.
3 There is investment in ‘collective responsibility’, as school improvement is no longer
considered to be the sole responsibility of a principal or a single teacher, but rather a
collective one.
4 There is a focus on reaching a shared vision and set of values, based on children’s rights
and respect for diversity. This forms the basis for shared, collective, and ethical decision-
making.
5 These four characteristics need a fifth condition to be realized: the presence of ‘leadership’
is a powerful factor in transforming a school’s culture.
Review of National Early Childhood Care and Education Quality Monitoring
Systems
14
This review concludes that there is very little information on how countries are monitoring ECCE
quality. The available evidence indicates that many high-income OECD countries have fairly
sophisticated systems of monitoring and regulating ECCE programs while many low- and middle-
income countries rely on proxy variables such as teacher-child ratios, compliance with operating
hours, and infrastructure standards to monitor quality, if quality is monitored at all.
13
Sharmahd N., Peeters, J., Van Laere, K., Vonta, T., De Kimpe, C., Brajković, S., Contini, L., Giovannini, D.; Transforming European ECEC
services and primary schools into professional learning communities: drivers, barriers and ways forward, NESET II report, Luxembourg:
Publications Office of the European Union, 2017. doi: 10.2766/74332.
14
Anderson, K. Kosaraju S., & Solano, A. (2014). Review of National Early Childhood Care and Education Quality Monitoring Systems.
World Bank Early Learning Partnership Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution.
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The review states that there are areas of convergence on what is important for quality, which could
be used as a basis for global monitoring tools or frameworks. From high income countries (f.i.
Belgium and The Netherlands) we know that implementing quality monitoring systems are
expensive and require significant resources, often from multiple actors and agencies. Sufficient
national (and, as needed international) expertise and resources are required to design and
implement a national ECCE quality monitoring system and ECCE providers need to have some type
of incentive to comply with the standards. Evidence from high-income countries demonstrates that
building and maintaining quality in ECCE settings requires an on-going emphasis on improvement.
Monitoring systems should be designed to promote improvement by setting standards that are
designed to promote children’s development, ensuring support and resources are available to
address areas of concern, and offering a supportive environment for sharing and acting upon results
from quality monitoring. An interesting example of how a coherent quality monitoring system can
be developed, is the MeMoQ project in the Flemish Community of Belgium, by the University of
Leuven and the University of Ghent. Inside this project financed by the Flemish Government first a
pedagogical quality framework was developed in collaboration with a group of stakeholders and
researchers
15
.
Based on this framework a measurement of the quality of Flemish ECEC was set up with the Class
instrument and other instruments that were developed by the MeMoQ researchers. This evaluation
of the quality will be repeated every five year. Recently a monitor instrument for the inspectorate
and a self-evaluation instrument for the services have been developed (April 2017).
For the moment the training centres are developing new instruments that can help the ECEC centres
to improve their quality.
15
https://www.kindengezin.be/img/pedagogische-raamwerk-engelseversie.pdf
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4 The five principles and ten statements of the EQF and
indicators based on recent policy research (see chapter 3).
Here we describe the principles and statements of the proposal for a European Quality
Framework for ECEC and we add indicators that were formulated from the
recommendations of the research that we described in the former chapter.
Accessibility
1 Provision that is available and affordable to all families and their children.
The potential benefits of high quality universal provision are particularly significant for children from
disadvantaged and/or marginalised groups. ECEC provision should be made available from birth to
the age at which children start compulsory primary school. To respond to parental circumstances
and encourage all families to use ECEC services, provision needs to offer flexibility in relation to
opening hours and the content of the programme.
What is the current rate / expected rate for 2020 of enrolment in ECEC compared to the
EU target for 2020: 95% of the four years to compulsory school age children are enrolled
in ECEC?
Is the attendance of ECEC (0-6 years) free of charge or income related?
2 Provision that encourages participation, strengthens social inclusion and embraces diversity.
Successful inclusion in ECEC is based on: a collaborative approach to promoting the benefits of
ECEC which involves local organisations and community groups; approaches which respect and
value the beliefs, needs and culture of parents; an assurance that all children and families are
welcome in an ECEC setting/centre; a pro-active approach to encouraging all parents to use ECEC
services; a recognition that staff should be trained to help parents and families to value ECEC
services and to assure them that their beliefs and cultures will be respected - this training can be
supported by parenting programmes which promote ECEC; by close cooperation between the staff
in ECEC preschool institutions, health and social services, local authorities and the school sector.
Is there a system of universal services for all children with specific support measures for
disadvantaged groups (progressive universalism)?
The ECEC workforce
3 Well-qualified staff whose initial and continuing training enables them to fulfil their
professional role recognising the ECEC workforce as professionals is key.
Professional development has a huge impact on the quality of staff pedagogy and children’s
outcomes. Developing common education and training programmes for all staff working in an ECEC
context (e.g. preschool teachers, assistants, educators, family day carers etc.) helps to create a
shared agenda and understanding of quality.
Is 50% of the workforce qualified on bachelor level?
Is there a balance in the initial training between theory and practice and is there a focus
on reflecting on practice and on a child-centred approach, and do children get
opportunities for forms of natural learning, for learning by experimenting?
Is Continuous Professional Development (CPD) a professional duty for the whole
workforce? Are their financial incentives for the services or the individual workers?
Are there childfree hours available to organise coaching and team meetings?
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Can every preschool institution rely on specialised workers for children with special needs
or coming from disadvantaged groups and can services get the support of pedagogical
coaches for implementing innovations?
Is there a training / coaching or supervision available for the directors?
Are there alternative pathways to qualification for non-qualified persons?
4 Supportive working conditions including professional leadership which creates opportunities
for observation, reflection, planning, teamwork and cooperation with parents.
Good working conditions benefit staff and contribute to their retention. Policy measures affect the
structural quality of ECEC provision including locally-determined arrangements on the size of a
group; children to adult ratios; working hours, and wage levels which can help to make employment
in an ECEC context an attractive option. Good working conditions can also reduce the constant and
detrimental staff turnover in ECEC.
Do the working conditions (wage levels, status of the profession) make employment in
ECEC an attractive option?
Is the adult child ratio (1/12) and the maximum number of children in a group (24) in line
with international standards?
Do the teachers have enough materials to create stimulating environments for the
children?
Is there enough focus on the development of reflective competences and capacity
building for planning?
Curriculum
5 A curriculum based on pedagogic goals, values and approaches which enables children to
reach their full potential in a holistic way.
Children’s education and care as well as their cognitive, social, emotional, physical and language
development are important. The curriculum should set common goals, values and approaches
which reflect society’s expectation about the role and responsibilities of ECEC settings in
encouraging children’s development towards their full potential. All children are active and
capable learners whose diverse competences are supported by the curriculum. At the same time
the implementation of the curriculum needs to be planned within an open framework which
acknowledges and addresses the diverse interests and needs of children in a holistic manner. A
well-balanced combination of education and care can promote children’s well-being, positive
self-image, physical development and their social and cognitive development. Children’s
experiences and their active participation are valued, and the significance of learning through
play is understood and supported
Do the short programs have a minimum of 3h a day and around 500 hours a year?
Is there a curriculum based on pedagogical goals and scientifically based?
Is there a balance between adult-led & child-led initiated activities?
Is there a focus on project-based learning or forms of natural learning, are the children
put into situations where they can guide their own learning process?
Are the interactions with the children, warm and stimulating? And is there any form of
discrimination towards poor and disadvantaged children?
6 A curriculum which requires staff to collaborate with children, colleagues and parents and
to reflect on their own practice.
A curriculum is an important instrument to stimulate the creation of a shared understanding
and trust between children; and between children, parents and ECEC staff in order to encourage
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development and learning. At a system or national level a curriculum can guide the work of all
ECEC settings and contexts and at a local or setting level, it can describe the practices and
priorities in the context of each centre. An essential factor in developing a collaborative
approach to the curriculum is the ability of individual staff to analyse their own practice, identify
what has been effective and, in partnership with their colleagues, develop new approaches
based on evidence. The quality of ECEC is enhanced when staffs discuss the implementation of
the curriculum within the context of their centre/setting and take account of the needs of the
children, their parents and the team. The curriculum can enhance this approach by promoting
children’s learning through experimentation and innovation; and encouraging cooperation with
parents on how ECEC provision contributes to supporting children’s development and learning.
Does the curriculum require staff to collaborate with children, colleagues and parents and
is the curriculum stimulating reflection on their own practice?
Is there a policy that includes disadvantaged children and children with special needs and
that also gives extra support to those children and their families?
Monitoring and evaluation
7 Monitoring and evaluating produces information at the relevant local, regional and/or
national level to support continuing improvements in the quality of policy and practice.
Systematic monitoring of ECEC allows for the generation of appropriate information and
feedback at the relevant local, regional or national level. This information should support open
exchange, coherent planning, review, evaluation and the development of ECEC in the pursuit of
high quality at all levels in the system. Monitoring and evaluation is more effective when the
information collected at a provider level is aligned with the information collected at a municipal,
regional and system level.
Is there an evaluation of the quality of the whole ECEC system? Is this evaluation of the
quality in alignment with international measurement scales? Which is the frequency of
this evaluation?
Is the system of monitoring of the ECEC services coherent and well developed, is it based
on international standards for monitoring?
8 Monitoring and evaluation which is in the best interest of the child Monitoring and
evaluation processes are conducted to support children, families and communities.
All stakeholders, including ECEC staff, should be engaged and empowered during the
implementation of any monitoring and evaluation process. While monitoring can focus on the
quality of structures, processes or outcomes; a focus on the interest of the child and staff
engagement strengthens the importance of looking at the quality of the processes used in ECEC
settings.
Is there a system of observation and documentation portfolios or narrative accounts / as
a way of monitoring of the progress that the individual child is making? Which is the
frequency of this individual evaluation?
Achieving these statements is easier if the following governance arrangements are in place
9 Stakeholders in the ECEC system have a clear and shared understanding of their role and
responsibilities, and know that they are expected to collaborate with partner organisations.
Given the cross-sectoral nature of ECEC provision government, stakeholders and social partners
need to work together to secure the success of ECEC services. Legislation, regulation and guidance
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 13 |
can be used to create clear expectations about the importance of collaborative working which
supports high quality outcomes for children, families and local communities.
Does the government give enough autonomy to the services, can they develop an own
human resource management?
Do the governmental bodies have to capable of the legislation and the regulation on
ECEC?
Do the legislations and regulations stimulate collaborations between different
stakeholders? Do the stakeholders have a clear and shared understanding of their role
and their responsibilities and are they expected to collaborate with partner
organisations?
10 Legislation, regulation and/or funding supports progress towards a universal legal
entitlement to publicly subsidised or funded ECEC, and progress is regularly reported to all
stakeholders.
Structural or legislative arrangements support access to ECEC by giving families the right to access
affordable ECEC provision. Approaches which support progress towards the universal availability of
ECEC recognise that providing additional funds to support access for disadvantaged groups can be
an effective strategy for increasing access especially for children from migrant, disadvantaged or
low-income families. Monitoring the uptake of ECEC ensures that funding is used effectively. In
order to make progress towards universal entitlement to provision measures to emphasise the
attractiveness and value of ECEC services need to be in place.
Is there a strategic plan (with the necessary legislation, regulation and funding) towards
universal legal entitlement to publicly subsidised or funded ECEC and is the progress
regularly reported?
Did the local or national government take measures to emphasise the value of ECEC
services, also towards disadvantaged families?
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 14 |
5 Developing and implementing a framework and process to
monitor and improve the quality of ECEC services in Serbia
based on the European Quality Framework
Accessibility
1 Provision that is available and affordable to all families and their children
What is the current rate / expected rate for 2020 of enrolment in ECEC compared to
the EU target for 2020: 95% of the four years to compulsory school age children are
enrolled in ECEC?
The average enrolment rate in 28 EU countries for children aged between four years of age and age
of compulsory education was 94,3% in 2014.
16
While in Serbia the coverage in 2016-17 for 4-6.5 is
76.42%. The enrolment of the children in ECEC in Serbia is very different according to the age of the
children; only 23% in day care preschool institutions/nurseries (three months to three years)
17
, for 4
to 5 years (SORS data): 55.67%) and for 5.5 to 6.5 years (PPP) 96.57%).
18
. So compared the other EU
countries the enrolment rate in Serbia is rather low. The recent plans to create 17000 new places
aims to increase the national preschool enrolment rates for children ages 3 and 5.5 years for about
10% (from 52 to 62%) and in eligible municipalities from 19 to 25 percent.
Data of enrolment of disadvantaged children on local level are not available and this makes it
difficult for municipalities to develop a policy towards accessibility and despites laws that gives
priority on vulnerable groups the enrolment of these children and parents according to the
interviewees (and Baucal, et al, 2016) is very low the result as well of lack of finance, lack of places as
of the negative attitudes towards these groups.
All interviewees, including Belgrade city officials, testify of a great shortage of places. In Belgrade
with 60 000 children in that age group, there are 23 000 new request for a place in ECEC, while there
are only 15000 places available, so around 8 000 parents in Belgrade find no place in ECEC (2016-
2017). Several parents that were interviewed told us they missed a job because of the shortness of
places in ECEC. They support the plan of Serbia to increase places by a loan of the World Bank.
The ministry recently lowered the parental contribution, which increased the pressure on the
available places.
Next to the public preschool institutions there is a growing number of private providers, who for the
moment, fill in 9 737 places in Belgrade (as of May 2017).
Is the attendance of ECEC (0-6 years) free of charge or income related?
Until October 2017, when umbrella law on education was changed, the contribution of the parental
fees was fixed and the amount is 20% of the contribution of the government (45/month). The city
of Belgrade refunds also 80% of the parental fee to parents that send their child to a private
preschool institution.
The compulsory 4h programs or preschool preparatory programs are free for all (parents have only
to pay for snacks). Whole day PPP price is reduced and some disadvantage groups have it for free.
16
European Commission Education and Training Monitor
17
Baucal, A. Breneselovic D., Miskeljin, L., Kruga, D., Amramovic,M. (2016) ECEC in Serbia: Situational Analysis and recommendations.
Belgrade
18
Republic statistical Office statistical yearbook of the Republic of Serbia Education
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 15 |
Although this could create opportunities to attract these children, interviewees that represent
minority organisations indicate obstacles for these groups as the financial threshold for excursions,
books and other ECEC equipment, problems with registration because of illiteracy, and the
segregation of minority groups.
The preschool programs that were developed through programmes with focus on social inclusion
and affordability as Impress and Kindergarten without Borders are free of charge for all children
from 3 to 5,5 years. The costs are on the account of the project but in the long run, it is not
determined that government has to pay the fees.
For the whole ECEC system including 6 months to 3 and 3 to 5,5 we advise to develop an income-
related system, parents pay according to their income. This system creates opportunities for
disadvantaged groups to enrol their children and in the same time it makes it less expensive for the
government to create new places in ECEC.
2 Provision that encourages participation, strengthens social inclusion and
embraces diversity
Is there a system of universal services for all children with specific support measures
for disadvantaged groups (progressive universalism)?
There is a consensus in research and in reports from international organisation that ECEC can
play an important role in breaking the cycle of disadvantage (European Commission, 2011
19
).
Although there were in the last years successful programs to improve the access for vulnerable
children like IMPRES and Kindergarten without Borders and despite laws and rulebooks that are
supporting inclusive education, according to the interviewees and researchers (Baucal, et al, 2016),
the children from vulnerable groups who need ECEC the most are the least involved. For instance
20% of the Roma children are not involved in the obligatory PPP. According to the interviewees
there is a need for more universal services for all children. We recommend indeed to work further in
the future towards universal services with special support for disadvantage children (progressive
universalism).
In the short preparatory programs that we visited, the disadvantaged children were not well
represented. Due to the lack of places in ECEC (3 to 6) middle class parents are sending their
children to those preparatory programmes and the disadvantaged children often do not find
the way to those PPP. The experiences of the IMPRESS and Kindergarten without Borders
projects can give inspiration how to overcome the thresholds for disadvantaged parents to
enrol their children in these programs. Concrete actions are needed in close collaboration with
local Roma communities and organisations and NGO’s working with vulnerable groups in
convincing the disadvantaged parents of the usefulness of ECEC for their children.
ECEC Workforce
20
3 Well-qualified staff whose initial and continuing training enables them to fulfil
their professional role
Is 50% of the workforce qualified on bachelor level?
The initial teacher training in Serbia is organised through two different types of trainings:
training on professional level that is organised in 11 university colleges and an academic
training that is organised in six University faculties. This has led to a variety of seventeen
19
Communication of the European Commission (2011). Early Childhood Education and Care : providing all our children with the best start
for the world of tomorrow
20
We also refer to the report by Peeters and Miskeljin, Towards a new initial training for ECEC teachers in Serbia.
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 16 |
different qualifications (Baucal et al. 2016). An asset of the initial training in Serbia is that
there are in total nine of those initial trainings with duration of four or five years, this is quite
long compared to other countries. Because there is not one common training competence
profile for these seventeen qualifications, this has led to inconsistencies among study
programs, duration and content of the different trainings. The interviewees and also the
authors of the study (Baucal et al, 2016) see therefore the initial training as a weakness in the
ECEC system in Serbia. So Serbia needs to reinvent the initial training and limit the number of
job titles and qualifications to one or two. From the CoRe research (2011, 2016) we know that
it is important the sector disposes of a professional competence profile and a training
competence profile. Serbia need one training competence profile (which competences do
students have to acquire when they graduate) that is in alignment with the professional
competences profile that exists (which competences do practitioners need to have to work in
ECEC).
Is there a balance in the initial training between theory and practice and is there a
focus on reflecting on practice and on a child-centred approach, and do children get
opportunities for forms of natural learning, for learning by experimenting?
The interviewees were very negative about the content of the initial training for teachers in
ECEC in Serbia. They all agreed that there is (as in the other countries in the region) too much
focus on theory, which starts from a teacher-centred approach. The initial training needs to be
in alignment with a preschool Curriculum Framework. We advice to base the new initial
training on the excellent new curriculum (The Years of Ascent) hopefully will be officially
adopted soon.
This new curriculum requires a focus on child centred approaches and on innovative
pedagogical practice (like experimental learning), that are in alignment with other inspiring
initial trainings in Europe (see report: Towards a new Initial training for ECEC teachers in
Serbia). Students and practitioners and professors complained about the limited hours of
internship (placement in ECEC institutions) and also about the kind of coaching (or lack of
coaching) of the internship. In the first year there is only 10 days of practice (mostly
observation), in the second between 10 and 25 days and in the third between 15 and 25 days
and in the fourth year (for the universities) between 20 and 40 days.
The initial training should be reinvented, with more focus on the link between theory and
practice and more internship for the students, and coaching of the students in practice, so
that they can try out with children the child-centred approaches that are mentioned in the
new curriculum. The initial training should be focused less on knowledge and more on
acquiring competences in innovative practice. Therefore it is very important to invest in the
capacity of the mentors of the university colleges and universities who are responsible for
coaching the students during their practice. The teachers who are responsible for the
internship should have on a structural and regular base contact with practice and they must be
trained in coaching methods that stimulate reflecting on pedagogical practice and creating
innovative practice. The interviewed students are also asking for more links between the
different courses and this link need to be the new curriculum.
For the moment teachers have the individual right to choose for a more teacher centred
approach or for a more child centred approach. The teachers that were interviewed said that a
majority made the choice for a more teacher centred approach and that when the new
curriculum will be implemented those teachers will need support and coaching by peer
learning around more child-centred approach, more collaboration with families and local
communities.
In the preschool institutions with innovative programs (like Step by Step or projects, ‘Impress’
and ‘Kindergartens without borders’) we visited most teachers are working with a child-
centred approach, and they use forms of natural learning and learning by experimenting. In
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 17 |
those schools the teachers are also prepared to work with parents, with the local community
and they go in the direction of an inclusive ECEC. In the near future, when the new curriculum
will be introduced these examples of good practice can be very inspiring for the preschool
institutions that use more teacher centred approaches.
Is Continuous Professional Development (CPD) a professional duty for the whole
workforce? Are their financial incentives for the services or the individual workers?
Since 2004 the law on Foundations of Education System regulates the continuous
professional development with 100 hours of programs in five years for every teacher. Local
governments give financial incentives based on a CPD plan.
Although some ECEC services have a clear policy and strategy for CPD plans and activities
inside and outside their institutions, most CPD activities are not linked to practice and we
know from a recent research that this is a necessary condition for improving pedagogical
practice
21
.
Are there childfree hours available to organise coaching and team meetings?
In Serbia teachers have to work 40 hours a week, they spend 6 hours with the children a day
and have two hours a day childfree hours. Although some teachers we interviewed and some
members of the teacher union complained that these hours are not well used, we heard and
saw some excellent examples of the positive use of childfree hours. In one of the institutions
we have visited, teachers use ten childfree hours a week for in-service training, consulting
literature, developing documentation, and for cooperation with parents and local community.
In another centre the hours are used for team meetings, courses, observation of colleagues,
open door moments for parents and documentation. In both preschool institutions, the
stimulating role of the director to reach high pedagogical quality was crucial. Together with a
pedagogical coach he implemented innovation through working with projects and
collaboration and exchange with NGO’s and partner organisations. All the teachers also had a
strong feeling of belonging; they were actively involved in the innovation projects in these
preschool institutions. We can conclude that the two hours a day of childfree hours gives a lot
of opportunities for implementing the new curriculum, the hours could be used for coaching
and we know from a systematic review that this kind of CPD is able to change the daily
practice in ECEC
22
.
Can every preschool institution rely on specialised workers for children with special
needs or coming from disadvantaged groups and can services get the support of
pedagogical coaches for implementing innovations?
The preschool institutions get also support from psychologists, pedagogues and
‘defectologists’, engaged as expert associates in pre-school institutions. This extra support for
the teacher is a strong point of the ECEC system in Serbia. There are psychologists and
pedagogues as expert associates in the preschool institutions and this could provide
possibilities for the improvement of practice but each expert associate has a large number of
groups (Baucal, et al, 2016). The Serbian law regulates extra support by assistants for children
with special needs in preschools if assessed and recommended by the local intersectoral
committees aimed at inclusive education, by pedagogical assistants for disadvantaged
21
Peleman, B., Jensen, B., Peeters, J. ed. (2018). Special Issue on Innovative Approaches towards Continuous Professional Development in
ECEC. European Journal for Education
22
. Peeters, J., Lazzari, A., Cameron, C., Budginaite, I., Hauari, H., Peleman, B., Siarova, H. (2015). Early Childhood Care: working conditions,
training and quality-A systematic review. Dublin: Eurofound
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 18 |
children and by social workers for the poor families. For many interviewees, a specialised
training for teachers working with children with special needs is necessary.
Is there a training/coaching or supervision available for the directors?
Directors have a mandate of four years. This creates problems with continuity. Courses of
management as well as a special programme on the pedagogical faculty with accreditations
are recently available. But some interviewees did not know that these trainings exist, others
had problems with the content of the training.
One director was very pleased by the management training and found it very useful. Directors
play a crucial role in the process of change and in the implementation of the ‘Standards for
quality of preschool institutions’ in the preschool institutions.
Are there alternative pathways to qualification for non-qualified persons?
We did not get any information about pathways to qualification for non-qualified persons.
4 Supportive working conditions including professional leadership which creates
opportunities for observation, reflection, planning, teamwork and cooperation
with parents
Do the working conditions (wage levels, status of the profession) make employment in
ECEC an attractive option?
Most of interviewed teachers describe their job as an attractive and creative profession, but
they complained about the low status of their profession compared to teachers in primary
school, they are more respected and the status of their job is higher. In Serbia teachers have
less (38.000 dinar /322 euro ) than an average salary (46.000 dinar/ 389 euro). They get the
same salary as teachers in primary school, but due to the fact that the salaries of the teachers
are funded by the local communities there are substantial difference among salaries in the
different regions (Baucal, et al, 2016).
Is the adult child ratio (1/12) and the maximum number of children in a group (24) in
line with international standards?
There is an official adult child ratio in Serbia where 2 teachers in a group cover 10 hours of
opening hours: 1/12 age for 12-18 months, 1/16 age for 18 months-3 years, 1/24 for age 4
years, 1/26 for age 5 years. Maximum 2 children with special needs are allowed in a group and
there a maximum of 20% overcapacity is allowed.
The interviewed teachers experience in practice a minimal overcapacity of 30%. Teachers see
the overcrowded classes as the most important problem and the interviewed teachers
complained about the fact that the inspectorate is not reacting against the overcapacity.
Do the teachers have enough materials to create stimulating environments for the
children?
From our own observations and from the talks with the teachers we can conclude that there is
a wide range of good and effective teaching materials to create a stimulating environment for
children. The buildings we visited were all in good condition, bright and full of light and also
the furniture is adapted to children and in perfect condition.
Most institutions in and near the capital have the capacity for a high number of children (500
children and more); they are situated in large buildings with several units.
We also saw institutions on a smaller scale outside Belgrade that were built within the IMPRES
project, they have the advantage that the parents live closer to the preschool institution and
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 19 |
have lesser mobility problems and these smaller preschools can stimulate more the contacts
between parents and children in the neighbourhood.
Is there enough focus on the development of reflective competences and capacity
building for planning?
The universities and the training centres should invest more in developing reflective
competences and using reflective and planning methods (like Wanda
23
) which are scientifically
based and proven to be successful in other countries. Since we know from recent literature
reviews and systematic reviews that reflecting on practice individually and in teams is
essential to improve the quality of the ECEC services and to have positive outcomes for
children (Eurofound, Peeters et al., 2015).
Curriculum
5 A curriculum based on pedagogic goals, values and approaches which enable
children to reach their full potential in a holistic way
Do the short programs have a minimum of three hours a day and around 500 hours a
year?
We know from the British EPPE study that short programs have only effect on children’s
outcomes when the have a total of 500 hours a year or at least twelve hours a week.
Most of the pre-primary programs are in blocs of four hours a day. Due to the shortage of
places, a lot of initiatives are taken for short programs from four to twelve hours a week.
In these programs the focus is more on learning through playing and most teachers work with
projects. In programs we visited children were working in small groups, collaborating with
each other, experimenting with new materials and they were very involved in their activities.
Is there a curriculum based on pedagogical goals and scientifically based?
The new curriculum for ECEC (The Years of Ascent, Preschool Curriculum Framework) is just
finished in a draft form. It was developed by a partnership between the Ministry of Education,
Science and Technological Development, the Institute for Improvement OF Education and the
Institute for Pedagogy and Andragogy with the support of UNICEF. ‘Years of Ascent is an
excellent piece of work developed by researchers, policymakers and practitioners (see
review). Most interviewees are very optimistic and positive about this new curriculum. There is
a lot of attention on the role of families and on fathers, on diversity and on working with
ethnic minorities.
Some directors that were involved in developing the draft were well informed, and their
teachers were supported by a new training program.
Some of the preschool institutions are piloting the new curriculum. It asks from the
kindergartens important steps in changing their practice and the teachers must be prepared
through trainings, and by sharing good practice among the piloting preschool institutions. A
group of 50 pre-school professionals are being trained to support implementation and mentor
pre-school institutions in implementation of this program (Preschool Assistance Network,
PAN).
23
Wanda is a reflective method especially developed for ECEC with funding of the European Social Fund and tested out successfully in
different language versions in Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia.
Sharmahd, N. Peeters, J., Bushati , M (2018) towards Continuous professional development: experiencing group reflection to analyse
practice in Albania. European Journal for Education Special Issue on Innovative Approaches towards Continuous Professional
Development.
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 20 |
The new curriculum can be a source of inspiration for trainers and coaches to set up trainings
and coaching sessions about the curriculum in a way that it can support the teachers to
improve practice.
Is there a balance between adult-led & child-led initiated activities?
Is there a focus on project-based learning or forms of natural learning, are the children
put into situations where they can guide their own learning process?
From the observations during the field visits and from the interviews, we can conclude that
the prevalent pedagogical approach is mostly teacher-centred: the teacher is the one leading
the learning process. The result of the lack of inspiring practice in the initial training may be an
explanation for a more teacher-centred approach and for the traditional activities we
observed.
Also the interviewees confirmed that most of the teachers choose for a pedagogical approach
that is very teacher centred. With the introduction of the new curriculum there will be a great
need for inspiring child centred approaches and practices and intensive support by
pedagogical coaches is needed. .
Are the interactions with the children, warm and stimulating? And is there any form
of discrimination towards poor and disadvantaged children?
During all our observations teachers were very positive towards the children and we observed
warm stimulating interaction. We did not see or heard any discrimination towards poor or
disadvantaged children although there were very few of them in the groups we visited.
6 A curriculum which requires staff to collaborate with children, colleagues and
parents and to reflect on their own practice
Does the curriculum require staff to collaborate with children, colleagues and parents
and is the curriculum stimulating reflection on their own practice?
In the new curriculum there is a lot of attention to collaboration with children, colleagues,
parents and local community and to stimulate reflection on practice.
As a teacher said: The implementation of the new curriculum will take time to learn from
colleagues, to reflect on practice and to learn together with the children and parents.”
Is there a policy that includes disadvantaged children and children with special needs
and that also gives extra support to those children and their families?
There is a legal obligation to include disadvantaged children and children with special needs
and to give them and their families extra support. In reality there are still a lot of obstacles and
prejudgements in society, and restrictions from directors, teachers and parents to realise it.
In our interviews with NGO’s we heard many good initiatives, we saw programs for children
with special needs that were developed together with parents and the interviewees told about
successful programs with a close collaboration between ECEC, the health sector and the social
sector, the local community and NGO’s.
Monitoring and evaluation
7 Monitoring and evaluating produces information at the relevant local, regional
and/or national level to support continuing improvements in the quality of policy
and practice
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 21 |
Is there an evaluation of the quality of the whole ECEC system? Is this evaluation of
the quality in alignment with international measurement scales? Which is the
frequency of this evaluation?
There is for the moment no system to measure the overall quality of the ECEC system in
Serbia. Many international organisations are promoting and some funders are even requiring
a scientific measurement of the quality of ECEC. We know from the review of National ECEC
Quality Monitoring System (p 8) that the development of a system to measure and monitor
the whole ECEC system based on international standards for monitoring is very expensive.
Therefore it is important to look for systems that are less expensive but also effective. In the
2014 Starting Strong IV OECD report one can find systems that can be interesting for Serbia.
ECEC in Serbia has the necessary institutions with special jurisdiction in monitoring,
development and advancement of the ECEC system: National Education Council (NEC), The
Institute for the Improvement of Education (IIE) and the Institute for Education Quality and
Evaluation (IEQE).
Is the system of monitoring of the ECEC services coherent and well developed, is it
based on international standards for monitoring?
The evaluation of the quality of the services, organised by the Ministry and the relevant
Institute is perceived by the sector as not adequate and the interviewees have their doubts
that the work of the inspectorate (school advisors) has an impact on increasing the quality.
The indicators used by the inspectorate are not perceived as relevant and are not supported
by directors.
For the external evaluation by the inspectorate (The Institute for the Improvement of
Education (IIE)) we recommend that this should be done by a team of inspectors with
expertise in the sector. Most interviewees have a lot of questions on the external monitoring
by the ministry and on evaluation of the quality of the ECEC services. First of all the inspectors
are more familiar with the primary schools than with the services for young children.
Secondary they never report situations that overrule the law, for example the over population
of children in a group.
In the report of the inspection from last year 60% of the ECEC preschool institutions got a
quality mark 4 (highest mark) which proves for many interviewees that there is something
wrong in the monitoring system.
Most interviewees plead for an intern/self evaluation, a bottom up approach, where teams
reflect on their practice and are supported and coached to improve their practice. They ask to
develop specific ECEC tools and self-evaluation instruments in collaboration with the sector
and aligned with the new curriculum.
8 Monitoring and evaluation which is in the best interest of the child
Is there a system of observation and documentation of the progress that the
individual child is making? Which is the frequency of this individual evaluation?
According to interviewees there is no individual measurement of children. But we also had the
impression from the observations during our field visits and the interviews that the
observation and documentation of the progress that every individual child is making was not
well developed in all preschool institutions. In some kindergartens we saw and heard nice
examples of portfolios of children, combined with check lists and child developing plans that
were used in team meetings and in the regularly teacher-parent meetings.
Based on the ‘new curriculum’, a system of documenting the progress of every child must be
developed. Existing systems from different countries (Italy f.i.) must be analysed and
considered to see if and how they could be of use for the context of Serbia.
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 22 |
Governance arrangements
9 Stakeholders in the ECEC system have a clear and shared understanding of their
role and responsibilities, and know that they are expected to collaborate with
partner organisations
Does the government give enough autonomy to the services, can they develop an own
human resource management?
From the interviews and from conversations we had with directors during field visits we
learned that the governmental organisations and local policy makers have a lot of influence in
the sector, compared to other European countries. The different stakeholders must get more
autonomy to develop an own policy for their services: schools and training centres must have
the autonomy to appoint directors and teachers according to general Human Resource quality
criteria.
Are the governmental bodies capable of respecting the legislation and the regulation
on ECEC?
The capacity building of people working in the governmental bodies that are responsible for
inspection and monitoring the quality (accreditation of training centres, inspection of
quality...) must be a priority for the near future.
Do the legislations and regulations stimulate collaborations between different
stakeholders? Do the stakeholders have a clear and shared understanding of their role
and their responsibilities and are they expected to collaborate with partner
organisations?
There have been several projects de last years that are examples of good collaboration
between different stakeholders. The Kindergarten without Borders project, the Impress
project and also the development of the new curriculum ‘Years of Ascent’ were outstanding
examples of a close collaboration of stakeholders and different partner organisations.
From the interviews we can conclude that there need to be more collaboration between the
training organisations and the preschools. Many interviewees speak of a gap between theory
and practice. From the CoRe study (2011) we learned that this collaboration can be stimulated
by the government by bringing representatives of the universities, the training centres and
ECEC stakeholders together to develop a professional competence profile for the preschools
and a training competence profile for the initial training. The government needs to assure that
both competence profiles must be in alignment with each other.
The government also could play a role in strengthening the alignment and continuity between
the concept of the new ECEC curriculum, the preschool program and the lower grades of
primary school education. For instance the preparatory preschool programme that have taken
over lot’s of elements of the traditional primary school elements the government could be
stimulated by the government to work together with preschools that are more child (and play)
oriented. This collaboration could avoid the schoolification of the PPP (see also Baucal, et al. ,
2016).
10 Legislation, regulation and/or funding supports progress towards a universal legal
entitlement to publicly subsidised or funded ECEC, and progress is regularly
reported to all stakeholders
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 23 |
Is there a strategic plan (with the necessary legislation, regulation and funding)
towards universal legal entitlement to publicly subsidised or funded ECEC and is the
progress regularly reported?
When it comes to ECEC the Action Plan (2015) for Implementation of the Strategy for the
Development of Education in Serbia (SED 2020) the strategic activities, objectives
stakeholders that are involved are well developed, as well as the implementation framework.
The decentralisation of responsibilities and decision-making authority from central to
municipality level causes problems for the municipalities with low level of socio-economic
development. Some small local governments with low level of socio-economic development
lack the necessary resources and expertise to increase the number of places .There is need to
provide central budget funding for ECEC, to give the municipalities more opportunities to
increase the enrolment and attendance of the children age 0 to 3 and age 3 to 5.
Serbia is for the moment working on the development of the Pre-school Information System
that will facilitate to report the progress that is made to increase the access.
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 24 |
6 Key findings
Opportunities of the ECEC system in Serbia
high level of initial training of pre-school teachers;
child free hours for team meetings and for reflection on practice;
excellent new Preschool Curriculum (Years of Ascent);
pedagogical coaches (expert associates-pedagogues) to support process of
change;
teachers are very warm and positive towards the children;
excellent laws to regulate ECEC;
excellent ECEC experts and NGO’s that have capacity to support implementation
of new curriculum;
Serbia has research centres in ECEC of high quality;
excellent reports on ECEC with relevant data and analysis of different aspects of
ECEC.
Challenges for the ECEC system in Serbia
low enrolment compared to European average; due to lack of provision in certain
regions, and the lack of capacities and equipment and some groups of parents
(mostly disadvantaged) who not see the usefulness of ECEC
low accessibility for disadvantaged children and children with special needs in
ECEC and pre-primary programs;
too much focus on theory and knowledge and not enough on acquiring
competences in initial training;
too much focus on teacher-centred approach in initial training and in practice;
during internship the students are not well supported and coached ;
important competences like on reflecting on practice and on build up partnership
with parents do not get enough attention in initial and in-service training;
lack of financial resources for in-service training; and also the content of the
professional development is not always useful for teachers and directors;
lack of necessary strategies and tools to implement quality in preschool
institutions: efficient monitoring tool, professional competence profile, training
competence profile, self-evaluation instrument based on new curriculum;
the existing experience from NGO’s and international organisations is not
sufficiently used.
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 25 |
7 Recommendations for developing and implementing a
framework and process to monitor and improve the quality of
ECEC services in Serbia
Accessibility
Increase enrolment . ECEC has an important role in the development of the child, in
breaking the cycle of disadvantage and it is also necessary to stimulate the employment of
mothers. Actions must be set up to increase the number of places in preschool (3 to 5) and
also in the nurseries (0 to 3).
More attention for attracting disadvantaged children to in ECEC. Further actions have to
be put in place to increase the accessibility for preparatory preschool programs for
disadvantaged and Roma parents. To do so successfully, the representatives of these
communities must be involved and the preschools need extra support to work with
disadvantaged and special needs children. To increase the enrolment of disadvantaged
groups the usefulness of ECEC for the children and the families must be emphasised
especially towards disadvantaged families.
Need for system of income related fees (rich parents pay more, poor parents pay less)
could help to finance extra places in nurseries and preschools for 3 to 5 years old.
Disadvantaged children learn the most in mixed groups with middle class children therefore
the ECEC sector in Serbia has to invest further in a system of progressive universalism:
universal services for all children, with extra support for the disadvantaged.
Workforce
Rethinking the initial training.
The content of the university initial training must be more focused on linking theory and
practice and more child-centred learning (experimental or natural learning) and in working
in a context of diversity (including going into dialogue with Roma and disadvantaged
parents). The focus of the initial and in-service training must be on acquiring reflecting
competences.
University professors need to get opportunities to get in touch with inspiring pedagogical
practice. Training institutions must get the opportunity to meet colleagues in other
European countries, so that information about new pedagogical approaches can be
exchanged. The new excellent preschool Curriculum ‘Years of Ascent’ is an excellent
framework that can be inspiring for the reform of the initial training.
Pathways to development for the assistants . Their role in relation to the role of the
teacher is not well defined. We refer to the NESETII study on this topic
24
. We recommend
that a group of researchers and representatives of the sector should come together to
define better the role of the assistant and also to create pathways to bachelor qualification
that are adapted to the assistants.
We advise to develop a training program for directors based on their learning questions
and reflecting on their daily practice. It is important to focus on the following tasks of the
leaders of the preschool institutions: heads of preschool institutions co-ordinate the
practical daily activities of the centre, they execute organisational and administrative tasks,
24
Peeters, J., Sharmahd, N.; Budginaité, I.(2016). Professionalisation of Childcare assistants in ECEC. Pathways towards qualification.
NESET II report. Luxembourg: Publications of the European Union.
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 26 |
they organise team meetings and evaluate the practitioners. In cooperation with the
practitioners they implement the pedagogical vision and the quality
25
In combination with the availability of childfree hours the different specialised expert
associate pedagogues and psychologists can create possibilities to improve practice and to
implement the new Preschool Curriculum through pedagogical coaching. Serbia needs to
change the competence profile of the expert associate by redefining appropriate Rulebooks.
The competences that are trained in the universities/ university colleges have to be in
alignment with competences that the sector requires (see the new Preschool Curriculum
Years of Ascent). Therefore a training competence profile need be developed by the
different stakeholders of the ECEC sector that is in alignment with the professional
competence profile that is based on the new Preschool Curriculum.
Curriculum
.
Training tools for the practitioners based on the new Preschool Curriculum for ECEC ‘Years
of Ascent’ have to be developed.
Monitoring and Evaluation
A broad discussion on how to monitor quality of the whole ECEC sector has to be set up by a
group of stakeholders (including parents), researchers, trainers and NGO representatives.
This discussion should be chaired by a respected person who is independent from the
government. The new preschool Curriculum must be the source of inspiration of this
working group.
Developing a monitoring system for ECEC that measures the overall quality of ECEC in
Serbia and that is able to help the inspectorate to evaluate the quality of the preschool
institution is a complex process. It could be a task for UNICEF to develop a system for the
region based on the results of the different stakeholders in the countries.
A self evaluation instrument based on the new Preschool Curriculum must be developed by
training organisations and resource centres and the other partners who worked on
developing the new curriculum.
Governance
Initiatives must be taken to develop a competent system that has the capacity to
implement the necessary innovations formulated in the new curriculum on all different
levels (individual, team, institution, government, international networks / organisations). To
realise this, a concrete plan has to be made on how these innovations will be implemented
on the different levels of the competent system. It is important to make use of the existing
experience from NGO’s (Step by Step and others) and international organisations like
UNICEF.
The governmental organisations must take further initiatives to bring different stakeholders
together to work around the alignment between training and practice (by the
development of a training competence profile and a professional competence profile). We
also recommend starting working groups on the continuity between the preschool and the
PPP, in order to avoid schoolification of the compulsory preparatory preschool programs.
The national government needs to develop a policy towards the municipalities with low
level of socio-economic development, so that they get the capacity to increase the number
of places in nursery and preschool institution. .
25
Peeters, J., De Kimpe, C., Brandts (2016). The competent system in Ghent. IN Vandenbroeck, Urban, Peeters. Pathways to
Professionalism. London Routlegde).
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 27 |
Annex 1: Field visits and interviews with policy makers and stakeholders
Visits to preschools
Visit to preschool in Sremčica
Visit to preschool in disadvantaged area Čačak
Interviews/ Fousgroups
with Vesna Nedeljkovic, Assistan Minister
of Education, Science and Technological Development;
with the Group for Social Inclusion;
with representatives of MOESTD , Group for Preschool Education;
with municipal policy makers responsible for ECEC: Belgrade city officials,
Danijela Markovic and Vladimir Pajic, City Secretariat for Education and
Child Protection;
with preschool teachers working in different areas (Rural, urban,
disadvantaged neighbourhoods) from PAN Network & Association of
preschool teachers;
with lecturers of initial training (different University colleges/ Universities from
Serbia), Vera Vecanski, Isidora Korac, Aleksandra Maksimovic, Director Vrsac,
Faculty of Philosophy;
with five students following early childhood education programmes;
with Institute for Pedagogy and Andragogy, University Belgrade;
With NGO’s working in ECD (parents associations, minority organisations,
Romapien, NDJF, Roditelj, VelikiMali, Harmonija;
with UNICEF representatives.
Conference
Key dimensions of the quality development in ECEC-The Preschool Curriculum
Framework, Belgrade, 23nd May 2017.
Training
in the Institute of Education Quality and Evaluation.
Consulted documents
Standards for Work Quality of preschool institutions;
ECEC in Serbia: Situational Analysis and Recommendations;
The Years of Ascent preschool Curriculum Framework draft.
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 28 |
Annex 2: Overview of existing quality frameworks for ECEC that can be used to
analyse the quality of the ECEC system and to compare the quality with other
countries.
The OECD (2012) describes five ‘policy levers’ to encourage quality in ECEC.
These include: setting out quality goals and regulations; designing and
implementing curriculum and standards; improving qualifications, training
and working conditions; engaging families and communities; and, advancing
data collection, research and monitoring.
The 2005 EFA Global Monitoring Report focused on quality gave priority to
teaching and learning processes including learning time; teaching methods;
assessment, feedback, incentives; class size; as well as other enabling inputs
that included teaching and learning materials, curriculum, physical learning
environment, teacher quality, leadership principals, inspectors, supervisors,
administrators and parent and community involvement.
The EU proposal for key principles of a quality framework for ECEC highlight
accessibility, workforce, curriculum, monitoring and evaluation and
governance and funding put forward ten statements that high quality ECEC
requires.
The International Step by Step Association, working in the CEE/CIS region
for several years now, focuses mainly on individual educators in its
conceptualisation and advocacy for quality. Competent Educators for the 21st
Century: principles of quality pedagogy, emphasises interactions, family and
community, inclusion, diversity, and values of democracy, assessment and
planning, teaching strategies, the learning environment and professional
development. The ISSA principles are focusing on the competences of the
individual teachers; they describe a list of more than eighty required
competences.
For UNICEF, quality encompasses physical learning environments, teaching
and learning processes, teachers and auxiliary staff, curriculum, leadership
and governance and parent and community involvement. Child-centred
approaches that are inclusive, with early identification of children at risk, are
central to equitable. The quality of professionals managers, educators,
health and social workers is a prerequisite: workforce training and
professional development is essential. Through quality ECE all children should
achieve a range of outcomes that support their development and the
realisation of their potential and prepares them for school and later life. These
include cognitive development measurable through traditional education
assessments, but go well beyond this to include children’s holistic
development in: (i) physical health and motor development, (ii) socio-
emotional development, (iii) approaches to learning and (iv) language
development, literacy and communication. Learning outcomes should be
defined according to the age, development stage and abilities of each child
and assessed against relevant indicators.
| 29th April 2018 | Serbia | 29 |
UNICEF recognises that achieving and sustaining such outcomes depends not
only on supporting the child through quality ECE services, but also through
supportive families ready for their child’s development and transition to
primary education, as well as through primary schools’ readiness for
children’s entry into primary education, as reflected in UNICEF’s Regional
Education Agenda: Including all children in quality learning and the regional
Call for Action: Education Equity Now!
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