On the 9th and 10th of November 2021, a part of our partnership had the first opportunity to meet in person on a blended transnational project meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia. It was a precious opportunity to work together in a focused and effective way on the tasks we have set up in the Diversity+ project.
During the two-days meeting, we made significant progress in defining next steps for the piloting phase of the next project’s tool to support ECEC centres to assess how diversity inclusion they are (Diversity+ Footprint Assessment Tool) and for setting the next steps for the European Qualification Framework of Diversity Ambassador in ECEC environments that will be launched in July 2023.
For our meeting, we were joined by a local expert, Erika Szabóová, from OSF Bratislava who came to talk to us in detail about one of the inspiring practices selected for our Diversity+ E-book: the Aflatoun/ Aflatot programme, which we would like to introduce to you in this article.
Open Society Foundation – Aflatoun/Aflatot
The Aflatoun programme aims to ensure that all children and young people, especially from the most vulnerable groups, have access to quality and inclusive social and financial education. Aflatoun prepares children to become agents of change in their lives. The programme includes special complementary programmes adapted to specific circumstances and it has several mutations tailored for different age groups.
The Aflatot programme, intended for children aged 3-6 years, has been implemented in Slovakia since 2015 by OSF Bratislava. The programme is based on the basic premise that young children can learn in a playful way about the benefits of sharing and saving, or about shopping and responsible behavior in the financial or social areas. It teaches them also about children’s rights.
With a social inclusion embedded approach and holistic teaching methods,, the programme offers useful learning experiences, creates a basis for children to be able to reach their full potential. It helps children to develop proactive attitudes, practical skills and values. It helps them build a positive attitude towards the environment, awareness of responsible use of different types of resources and encourages them to respect the diversity of genders, religions, and cultures, and supports the role of parents and families.
An integral part of the programme is the puppet Aflatoun, whose physical presence is very important. This character accompanies the children through the entire program and in all implemented activities.
Since 2015, the OSF experts have trained several dozen of teachers, as well as non-teaching staff who use the Aflatot methodology in kindergartens or community centers. They use a methodology contextualized for Slovakia, and for the specifics of working with children in marginalized Roma communities.
Hundreds of children and their parents, mostly from marginalized Roma communities in eastern Slovakia have joined the programme so far. The focus on the marginalized Roma communities is based on the fact that we cannot pull children out of this challenging environment, but we can still support them and equip them with knowledge and skills.
Intended for all children regardless of their educational needs, kindergartens are attended by both children without social disadvantages and children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and all prospered in all educational areas of the program. Namely, as the impact assessments of the programme shows, there was improvement in the areas of initiative, relationships, self-regulation, problematic behavior, and delayed gratification.
Engaging parents as part of the educational process
The methods used are based on relationships – between children, between children and the environment, and also between children and their parents who play an important role in the process of education. Through homework, children work together with their parents in their home environment. The parents gain interest in their children’s education and often get a chance to learn something new and boost their social and financial literacy at the same time too. This is very beneficial especially in case of the families from socially disadvantaged background who are often trapped in a generational cycle of poverty. The communication between the parent and the child is purposefully developed and the whole process supports the creation of an emotional bond between the child and the parent. This form of involvement also increases the child’s family’s interest in cooperating with the ECEC facility and draws them into the activities that their child is engaged in. It also removes the barriers that often exist between the child’s home environment and the professionals in the ECEC setting or community centre and creates an alliance the child can benefit from.
As the programme has proven to be greatly beneficial for the children in the participating institutions, in the future, the OSF would like to scale it up and potentially anchor some of its core elements in the state pre-primary educational programme for the benefit of all young children in Slovakia.