26 November 2019

Two-day conference on solving early and persistent educational inequality

Child care and school facilities important to children's identities

With the ISOTIS research project, Professor of Pedagogy Paul Leseman from Utrecht University wanted to contribute to the fight against early and persistent educational inequality. Leseman will mark the end of his project, which was funded by the European Union and involved 17 institutes from 11 different countries, with the international Equality and Inclusion conference at TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht. 

When asked about a result from his research that he considers important to highlight, Leseman mentions research that his Italian colleagues spearheaded. 'As part of our project, they went looking for the children's voice: what do small children themselves consider important in the description and shaping of their identities?'

kind aan lunch op school

Well-equipped school

The researchers conducted this children's study in urban areas in eight different countries. The children involved had a migration background, were Roma children or came from families with low incomes. Leseman: 'Of course these children know that their backgrounds and mother tongues may differ, but that doesn't matter to them. What's more, they don't often refer to their cultural and linguistic backgrounds when describing their own identities.' The social-relational space of the family and school/preschool appeared to be much more important to their identity. 'Children identified themselves primarily with their school/preschool as a physical-social space in which they belong, and as such this space should be attractive and well-equipped.' 

Home and school

The factors most important to the children, however, were the social relationships with their peers, school/preschool teachers and their own families. 'Children experienced fluid boundaries between the social structures of their family and school/preschool, and they like having their siblings at the same school/preschool. All the children identified continuity between home and school through regular parental involvement with school/preschool activities as desirable, and it contributed to their wellbeing and their sense of belonging.'

This requires an inclusive, multicultural, child-oriented climate within these buildings.

Involvement with society

As a result, this study recommends that childcare facilities and primary schools be recognised as the joint property of the children, and that they be viewed as important parts of their identities. Leseman: 'This will require an inclusive, multicultural and child-oriented climate within these buildings. Furthermore, joint group activities and parental participation are also necessary to prevent a hard boundary between the children's own home and the child care/school facilities. This will create a feeling of acceptance and inclusion for children with different backgrounds, and ensures a strong foundation for the later involvement of these children with society.'

The Equality and Inclusion conference is sponsored by Utrecht University's Education for Learning Societies focus area and Institutes of Open Societies and Dynamics of Youth strategic themes.