A multidisciplinary consortium of Utrecht University (Utrecht School of Economics, Department of Child, Family and Education Studies) and Sardes Ltd. conducts a large scale impact evaluation study of Dutch preschool education policy for disadvantaged children. The study is part of a comprehensive program of research into current educational priority policy, initiated by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences and funded by the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO). The project evaluates a series of new policy measures together with a massive extra investment in preschool education. The most important measure is the expansion of preschool for disadvantaged children from 10 hours to 16 hours per week as of August 2020. For many municipalities the new measures imply a significant change of policy, which has to be effectuated in a relatively short period of time. For other municipalities the new measures match standing practice closely. Because of this variation in local practice and the staggered implementation of the reform, the policy measures create a natural experiment that can be used to make strong claims about the causal effects of the preschool expansion.
The project will include three cohorts of two- to three-year-old disadvantaged children: a pre-transition, transition and post-transition cohort. Included are children from families with a low socio-economic status with a Dutch, Turkish, Moroccan or other non-Western background. The children, in total about 2000, will be recruited in daycare and preschool centers in 30 to 40 municipalities spread over the country. Children’s development will be followed in the domains of motor skills, spatial cognition, language skills, executive functions, self-regulation, and social competence. The study takes into account differences in the quality of the provided preschool education at the centers (measured using observations and structured interviews), and of the home environment (based on interviews with parents). The data-analyses will make optimal use of the natural experiment and will apply micro-econometric techniques (in particular difference-in-difference and instrumental-variables). In addition to the impact evaluation, focusing on child outcomes, a multiple case study will be conducted of the municipal policies regarding preschool education. The study runs from April 2019 until April 2023.
ISOTIS addresses the nature, causes and impact of early emerging social and educational inequalities in the context of socioeconomic, cultural and institutional processes. Quasi-panels and pooled longitudinal datasets will be used to examine the variation in early educational gaps and developmental trajectories across countries, education systems and time. To disentangle the complex interactions between characteristics of systems and target groups, ISOTIS will study significant immigrant, indigenous ethnic-cultural and low-income native groups, associated with persistent educational disadvantages. ISOTIS will examine current resources, experiences, aspirations, needs and well-being of children and parents in these groups in the context of acculturation and integration, and in relation to local and national policies. ISOTIS aims to contribute to effective policy and practice development by generating recommendations and concrete tools for: (1) supporting disadvantaged families and communities in using their own cultural and linguistic resources to create safe and stimulating home environments for their children; (2) creating effective and inclusive pedagogies in early childhood education and care centres and primary schools, including multilingual support; (3) professionalization of staff, centres and schools to improve quality and inclusiveness; and (4) establishing inter-agency coordination of support services to children and families.
In line with the EU strategies for 2020 and the need for a systemic and integrated approach to Early Childhood education and Care (ECEC), the project identifies eight key issues and questions for which effective policy measures and instruments should be developed. They concern assessing the impact of ECEC, optimizing quality and curricula for ECEC to increase effectiveness, raising the professional competencies of staff, monitoring and assuring quality of ECEC, increasing the inclusiveness of ECEC, in particular for socioeconomically disadvantaged children, funding of ECEC, and the need for innovative European indicators of children’s wellbeing. The project addresses these issues in an integrative way by combining state-of-the-art knowledge of factors determining personal, social and economic benefits of ECEC with knowledge of the mechanisms determining access to and use of ECEC. In developing a European knowledge base for ECEC, the project adds to the existing knowledge in three ways. First, it includes secondary analyses of recent and ongoing large-scale longitudinal ECEC research from several European countries. Second, it includes the perspectives of important stakeholders and integrate cultural beliefs and values through a large scale survey across Europe. Third, it includes an observational in-depth study in ECEC centers in eight countries, along with a cross-cultural evaluation of observed practices. The central aim is to develop an evidence-based and culture-sensitive framework of (a) Developmental goals, quality assessment, curriculum approaches and policy measures for improving the quality and effectiveness of ECEC; and (b) Effective strategies of organizing, funding and governing ECEC that increase the impact of ECEC. The interdisciplinary research team constructs this framework, based on the competencies and skills that young children need to develop in current societies, identifies the conditions that have to be fulfilled to promote child development and wellbeing, and identifies strategies and policy measures that support access to high quality provisions, and that are likely to receive broad support of stakeholders, thereby enhancing the impact of ECEC. Website: http://ecec-care.org.
The life course is seen as an important reference point in the debate on the modernization of social security. Life course arrangements make a less sharp distinction between internal (chosen) and external risks compared to traditional welfare-state arrangements, fit into a knowledge-based society and accommodate diversity. By improving the fit between work and private life, life course arrangements furthermore aim at increasing labour market participation. In this research project, the effects of actual and potential life arrangements are analysed. The take-up and the need for such arrangements, the legal possibilities of including such arrangements into statutory social security law and collective labour agreements are studied, as well as their labour market effects. Our starting point is the modern mobile worker, who wants to combine work, care and training in a flexible labour market that is increasingly influenced by (inter-)national laws and regulations. For more information see our project page.