Developing quality early childhood education: Using the Index for Inclusion in Germany
The German education system has performed poorly in international student achievement tests. It has also been criticised for discriminating against children from lower social classes and immigrant families and children with disabilities. A key focus for improving education is to develop early childhood education. Here, Andrea demonstrates how the Index for Inclusion is being used to develop inclusive cultures in schools and day care facilities.
A recent UNICEF study1 ranked Germany 13 out of 25 OECD countries; it failed to meet these standards:
- subsidised and regulated child care services for 25% of children under three years of age
- child poverty rate less than 10%
- minimum pre-school staff-to-children ratio of 1:15
- near universal outreach of essential child health services.
Far reaching changes are needed in developing more progressive educational policies, and in changing attitudes to pedagogy. Since 2007, the Index for Inclusion has been used to develop inclusive cultures in 30 early childhood settings in and around Cologne and Bonn. This is being done in co-operation with the City of Cologne’s school board and the Martin Luther University at Halle/Wittenberg.
1. Child care for children aged 0 to 3 years
It is rare for parents to take their infants and small children to a child care facility. Trust and co-operation need to be developed between parents and educators if this is to change. Information needs to be shared about children’s behaviour, learning and development progress, and daily activities at home and in the child care setting. The ‘Family Oriented University’ programme at Fulda University offers child care to students and university staff. Hours are flexible according to children’s and parents’ individual needs, and the approach is inclusive.
2. Education, care and instruction for children aged 3-6 (kindergarten)
A day care centre uses the Index for Inclusion to strengthen the participation and well-being of all children, parents and employees. They seek to find and remove barriers, and to include children with disabilities. Monitoring quality development also aims to lay a foundation for future self-evaluation. The child care workers practise self-reflection using questions and indicators from the Index for Inclusion, e.g:
Do all educators and children view each other as both teachers and learners? Educators agreed that they see themselves as both teachers and learners. At the end of each day, everybody tells each other what she or he has learned. The adults present their ‘daily learning progress’ to the children, so that children see how both children and adults learn from each other, and that all learners are equal.
3. Transition from kindergarten to school
In 2009, one elementary school and four day care centres in Bonn started a joint process of quality development using the Index for Inclusion. The aim is to ensure a participatory and inclusive transition from kindergarten to elementary school. Those involved want to strengthen parents’ responsibilities and participation, and ensure that children have a smooth transition from one educational facility to another. In addition, pedagogues (child care workers) from early childhood and school settings have a chance to share their knowledge. The process is organised, monitored, and reflected upon using questions from the Index for Inclusion, in order for inclusive cultures, structures, and practices to become effective across the different facilities.
Prof. Dr. Andrea Platte teaches at the Faculty of Applied Science of Cologne. She also supervises the ‘Shaping Diversity: Quality Development through the Index for Inclusion’ project led by the Montag Foundation for Youth and Society. Contact Andrea at:
Cologne University of Applied Science
The Index for Inclusion in German (and other languages) is available from: https://www.eenet.org.uk/resources/resource_search.php
1 UNICEF: The Child Care Transition – A League Table of Early Childhood education and care in the economically advanced countries of the OECD, Florence 2008.