Despite UK project partner Aspire-igen Group no longer being able to officially participate in Euroguidance due to Brexit, the network was keen to keep this organisation in its communication channels for mutual benefit, so the network has also continued to be utilised to disseminate Diversity+ as well as sourcing research from non-partner countries. This outreach work has informed Diversity+ project outputs and determined that the eBook of Inspiring Practices and the Diversity+ Charter developed are appropriate and fit for purpose.
Through Euroguidance, Aspire-igen was able to interview two senior advisors at the Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators as part of the initial research phase last year. According to these interviewees, the principle of universal access to ECEC (Early Years Education and Care) is very much integrated into Danish society’s responsibility to take care of its younger citizens. All children should belong to an ECEC centre equally, despite their different backgrounds or challenges.
However, there has been increasing debate about how to raise the percentage of children from ethnic minorities attending ECEC. In Copenhagen, there are lots of different children with migrant backgrounds, but this is not the case across the rest of the country. In the capital, children are taught in Danish but the interviewees state that teaching staff tend to communicate with parents from ethnic minorities in English as they are not trained to work in other languages.
Another issue facing Danish ECEC are right-wing attitudes in wider society towards immigrants which our interviewees state are more common there than in neighbouring Sweden and Norway. When children with migrant backgrounds leave ECEC for primary school, they are less likely to achieve success than other students, perhaps because of feeling unwelcome or not fully accepted in Danish society.
Furthermore, teacher training in Denmark is very broad and general, with not enough emphasis placed on how to support specific groups of children. Our interviewees suggest that there is a need for in-service training or seminars to cover this gap. If an ECEC professional is in a municipality where there are high levels of ethnic diversity, there is a local need to qualify the competencies of ECEC staff in this way.
One of the interviewees recalled their experience teaching young children with a Turkish background. As well as celebrating Christmas and Easter at the ECEC centre, they also celebrated Eid. When the class talked about geography, they discussed the Danish city in which they were living but also about the cities and culture of Turkey. The teacher made sure that images of both Turkey and Denmark were displayed in the classroom in order to acknowledge and respect the children’s background.
As a principle, the interviewees believe that diversity should be celebrated and regarded as something which makes Denmark stronger and should be embraced across Europe as a whole. They also want to ensure that ECEC is recognised as a very important foundation for education, equipping all children with life skills, not only in terms of cognitive ability but also morally and socially.
Author: Michael Miller, Aspire-international Project Officer, UK
Photo: Yadid Levy / Norden.org