Investment in early childhood development is linked to direct returns in the form of equity and social justice, particularly in regards to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Those are the findings of the Roma Early Childhood Inclusion (RECI) Studies, a joint initiative of the Open Society Early Childhood Program, the Roma Education Fund (REF), and UNICEF. The studies present a unique opportunity to promote research-based advocacy that helps ensure equal access to quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) for Roma children.
The Roma Early Childhood Inclusion+ (RECI+) Croatia report [PDF]—which is the sixth in the series and launched in Zagreb in February 2015—confirms that education is one of the most critical areas of intervention for Roma children. While its findings show that progress has been made to bridge the gaps in educational policy and reaffirm the initiatives set out in the National Roma Inclusion Strategy 2013–2020, it also indicates that gaps in the ECEC system have a disproportionately negative impact on Roma children and their families.
The RECI+ Croatia study highlights the significantly lower level of resources allocated to programs that support family and child well-being in Croatia, compared to other European countries. Although the start of the research coincided with a period of economic crisis and austerity policies, with extensive cuts to welfare benefits and social services, it remains clear that for Croatia to achieve a successful education and fulfilling life for every child, early childhood education and care for all children must be a top priority.
There is a growing body of evidence that underscores the importance of investment in early childhood development. This is especially true in the case of Roma children. It is time that government, civil society, international agencies, and donors acted at local, national, and international levels to apply what has been learned about the benefits of early childhood education and care for all children.
Read the full article and download the report here: http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/when-roma-children-get-better-education-society-benefits