The Luxembourg Presidency organised a conference on Diversity and Multilingualism in Early Childhood Education and Care held on 10 and 11 September, 2015.
Throughout the second day, there was a presentation of the results of several workshops, followed by a panel discussion. Several challenges were identified, such as the need to value and integrate other languages and cultures into programmes ("curriculum") and value and foster the mother tongue of children from migrant backgrounds, since this can improve communication with parents and boost children's confidence. The delegates were unanimous in their observation that multilingualism constitutes an opportunity that is increasingly more valued, while monolingualism might prove to be a handicap.
The role and above all the need for and legitimacy of child assessment were, however, issues that divided the delegates.
Other workshops were devoted to parental involvement in education and the fostering of a multilingual environment, as well as teachers' working conditions. On this topic, several delegates criticised the "low status" of the teaching profession, calling on it to be made "more attractive". Others criticised the fact that teachers had too many children under their care, and that this would hinder a genuine multilingual education.
As for the relationship between teachers and parents, the President of the European Parents Association (EPA), Johannes Theiner, called for a "genuine partnership" and a "sharing of responsibilities", arguing that parents are "primary educators" who serve as role models and who should be involved more.
Sophie Beernaerts, Head of Unit of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Education and Culture "School, Teachers and Multilingualism" stressed that pre-school education constitutes an opportunity for social inclusion. She went on to say that after the "Education, Culture, Youth, Sport" Council on 23 November 2015, the Commission and Presidency will put forward their conclusions from this conference.
She added that the Commission would draw on the quality framework for education and early childhood services, presented in Athens in October 2014. "It represents a solid base on which common thinking can be built and initiate and facilitate dialogue at both national and local levels, since this framework highlights the different dimensions that must be considered", she explained. Sophie Beernaerts pointed out that the goal of each quality framework is not harmonisation, but that it represents a non-binding framework which aims for the exchange of best practices between Member States.