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The project is implemented in small towns in partnership with “Knowledge” Association (Lovech) and “New Road” Association, (Hayredin). Element of Play® program is being applied in Kindergarten “Sun” (Lukovit), Community center in the village of Petrevene, Kindergarten “Spring” (Oryahovo), Community center in the village of Galovo, as well as with the participation of the Club of Non-Profit Organizations, Targovishte (KNSO) and “Health and Social Development” Foundation, Sofia (FZSR).
The implementation of the project activities has been planned from September 2019 to December 2020.
The project is funded by the Trust for Social Achievement with the amount of BGN 38,000.
The problem of kindergarten late entry or non-attendance by children from marginalized communities leads to several other problems, which most often occur in primary school age and has later implications in the lives of young people and adults such as social isolation, unemployment, poverty. Often, children from marginalized ethnic communities find it difficult to adapt when entering a pre-school or school environment due to a language barrier. At the same time, the education system does not always manage to deal with these circumstances due to a lack of resources. This creates conditions for an incomplete inclusion in the educational process, as well as neglectful practices of their low school achievements, which leads to early school dropout.
Several studies have shown the importance of early education and its benefits for the child’s development in school and its life as an adult. According to a 2018 Ministry of Education analysis, the PISA results of children who have been in kindergarten for more than 1 year are 40 points higher than those who did not attend. The younger the child has been included in educational interventions or programs, the better it is for his cognitive, socio-emotional, motor development, and communication skills, no matter if the interventions took place at home or in an organized learning environment. The enrollment of a child in kindergarten at an age lower than the required is also related to the motivation of parents. These are just a few of the reasons why the problem requires large-scale thinking through national policies about the specifics of communities, their culture, and possible ways to open them.
Applying innovative approaches to working with children and parents from marginalized communities is a good practice that has been proven from our experience. It increases the chance of their enrollment in a kindergarten and decreases the dropout rate. On the other hand, these approaches provide an opportunity to enrich the pedagogical practices and the teachers’ capacity to support higher developmental achievements and to enhance the quality of education and care in early childhood. Implementation of the programs that are part of the Element of Play® platform will lead to overcoming some of the difficulties typical for kindergartens attended by children from marginalized communities. Some of these challenges are found in the reduced quality of the educational process, the lack of understanding of the child’s specific needs (language, culture, social barrier), as well as the challenging process of working with parents for their parental role awareness, etc.
The project “PLAY TO HAVE CHANCES” aims to create and develop programs based on learning through play (through the platform Element of Play®) in 2 kindergartens and 2 community centers / social services in marginalized communities to create more opportunities for early childhood learning. Its objectives are to make it easier for families with young children to adapt to kindergarten by improving the environment and learning processes in kindergartens and community centers / social services, where there is a shortage of educational services for young children. A special focus of the project is the involvement of parents, who will receive support to improve skills in meeting the needs of their children and creating a stimulating environment for their development.
The development of the programs based on play in kindergartens and community centers / social services will be coordinated by 2 non-governmental organizations. Each organization will develop an early childhood learning practice in 1 kindergarten and 1 community center / social service.
The following activities will be implemented within the “PLAY TO HAVE CHANCES” project:
- Introductory training in game-based learning for project participants;
- Practical sessions on the programs based on play with children in kindergarten and community centers / social service;
- Training of parents in kindergarten;
- Evaluating and reporting the progress of the children included in the practical sessions;
- Providing on-site support for the specialists included in the project (a mentoring program for each organization, upgrading training courses and exchange visits);
- Activities for project results promotion, visualization, and dissemination.
To support the on-site work with children and parents in places, 2 non-governmental organizations with experience in early childhood development and play-based programs – KNSO and FZSR, have a mentoring role for the specialists in the 4 places of the project.