‘Childhood policy must be better coordinated and resistant to any changes in government’ – Expert

Monday, September 17th 2018: Professor Mathias Urban, holder of the Desmond Chair in Early Childhood Education at DCU, will today tell a gathering of the world’s most influential think tanks that early childhood education requires a more coordinated approach to governance, resourcing, professional preparation and evaluation.

Prof. Urban, a leading figure in early childhood studies, will be presenting a policy paper at the 2018 T20 (Think 20 – a network of research institutes and think tanks for the G20 countries) Summit in Buenos Aires.

Addressing a plenary session on ‘Education for the Future: Global Perspectives for Local Solutions’, Prof. Urban will argue that the varied social, cultural and political complexities regarding early children programmes globally necessitate a holistic approach. He has called for G20 governments to develop national policy frameworks and strategies that reach beyond electoral cycles and policies of any specific government and which are “strong enough to resist changes in government and administration”.

The T20 provides research-based policy advice to the G20 countries on issues of global importance. This week’s conference is designed to foster collaboration with the G20 leaders meeting in Argentina at the end of this year.

Speaking in advance of his address to the T20, Prof Urban said “Early childhood development, education and care is gradually receiving greater attention at national and international levels. This Summit marks the first time that early childhood development, education and care has received such prominence in the G20 discussions”.

He added: “There is an increasing recognition by the World Bank, OECD, UNESCO and others that short-term, disconnected programmes and initiatives are ineffective and need to be replaced by a more coordinated, bigger-picture approach. This involves connecting and investing in practitioners, in administration, in research and in governance.”

Commenting on Ireland’s track record and current status in the area of early childhood development, education and care, Prof. Urban said: “Not only is our early childhood education chronically underfunded, but it is also characterised by governance issues and a lack of coordination. The system is hopelessly fragmented in Ireland. We need to up our game, but it is critical that money be put into a system that is working and competent. Ireland is at the bottom of the OECD ladder in terms of GDP spend on early childhood education. We can see a lot of interesting early child policy development and implementation, for example in South America, from which we in Europe and the so-called ‘Western World’ can learn, in terms of a whole-country approach.”


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