By Alina Cosmulescu, Aspire-international Intern
Diversity+ initial research phase has involved gaining deeper insight into ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) provision across project partner countries, as well as involving nations outside the consortium. One such example of this is a recent interview carried out with a representative from Germany. This participant is based in Berlin and implements research and education projects at a local, state, federal and European level, with a particular interest in social and gender inequalities. The article below offers some interesting insights made by the interviewee on his assessment of German ECEC.
Although our interviewee feels the topic of diversity and inclusion is not currently a priority within German ECEC, attention to the topic is growing. Within this sector, approaches taken are still very traditional, and largely determined by an institution’s own culture and values. Our interviewee believes that there is a clear need for further awareness-raising, knowledge, and skills improvement, and this should also be sustained by governmental support.
Over the last 10-15 years, diversity in ECEC has started to become more of a focus in Germany, with professionals working in the sector acknowledging how stereotypes begin to develop from a young age in children. Consequently, strategies towards embracing diversity are gaining importance.
In 2009, Germany signed The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and started to implement this strategy. However, there is a gap between the political will that exists and the practical needs of ECEC: the implementation happened too rapidly, without sufficient staff training in preparation for this and the results, therefore, were not as effective as expected.
According to our German interviewee, the group having the hardest time in embracing diversity is older teaching staff. This is an issue especially in rural areas, where there is a lack of training and knowledge regarding this topic. Cultural sensitivity is also lacking, usually not being addressed as a part of ECEC professionals’ training, meaning that they are not sufficiently prepared to promote diversity in their workplace.
On a more positive note, one thing that has improved is the way bias and prejudice are being addressed in advertisements for ECEC in Germany: promotional images used are becoming more diverse, such as depicting children with disabilities or with varied ethnicities.
For diversity to be fully embraced, it is crucial that children with additional needs are included in mainstream ECEC provision as this plays an important role in their cognitive and social development. According to our German interviewee, it is fear of the unknown which is creating and sustaining biases. It is also important to address the power relations marginalised groups face and question what power, if any, they have to influence society. Social injustice exists in ECEC and these inequalities needs to be tackled.
ECEC organisations should promote a culture of embracing diversity and this depends on every Early Years professional assessing and improving their attitude towards this topic. As culture changes over time, we all need a constant reminder to maintain a positive approach towards diversity and overcome any personal prejudices and biases.
Image: “Crayons de couleur” by Supernico26 is licensed under CC BY 2.0