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Inspiring change: An early childhood education and care study visit to Sweden and Poland

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Cohen, Bronwen & Pay, Nicola
Publication Date: 
5 Oct 2011

Excerpts from the report:

This study visit to Sweden and Poland has provided examples of two very different countries, at very different stages of developing early childhood services. Sweden has one of the most highly developed public ECEC systems in Europe. High levels of taxation support universal access to services from the age of 12 months until formal schooling begins at age 6, with an integrated framework for supporting those with additional needs. The high level of support has been linked to the country's low levels of inequality and child poverty.

It may not be possible to adopt the Swedish model per se, but there is a lot to be gained from exploring what benefits universal access can bring and how resources are invested to shape practice on the ground.

Poland's journey to improve access to ECEC services is still in its infancy. It has not had the level of government support that Sweden has had, but provides examples of other funding avenues such as the EU Structural Funds. The question of how to sustain and develop the improved service provision that has been achieved using targeted funding will make Poland a fascinating case study to focus on in the future.

Every country is unique. We cannot lift a system from one country and reproduce it in another. However, study visits like this one enable us to identify some of the policies and practices that work or don't work, and to reflect on how our own country may make use of others' experience to improve our own.