ECEC is at the heart of Finnish city Espoo, with a commitment to “leveling the field”
The premise that every child has the right to learn, grow and develop to their fullest potential is at the heart of the Finnish city of Espoo, along with a commitment to level the playing field for children coming from diverse starting points in life, and working within the support ecosystem of each child.
The approach, often made through programmes or pilots financed by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, is strongly centred on play and adopting a positive pedagogy, the Eurocities network has shared.
Eurocities, a network of 190 cities in 39 countries, represents 130 million people, with staff writer Alex Godson recently sharing the story of Espoo, highlighting the innovative approach the city is taking to ensuring the voice of the child is heavily present in policy and decision making.
“Every child begins this journey in early childhood education and care only once. The child’s first encounter with their primary educator is utterly important,” Raija Laine, Development Manager at Espoo ECEC unit explained.
“The gestures, tone of voice and attitudes of the educator make a lasting impact on the child.”
It is this level of focus which has influenced the practices adopted by the city in the early childhood education and care (ECEC ) space, including offering children autonomy and agency wherever possible.
This was showcased in a project that ran from 2019-2020, centred on inclusion and working with families, which ultimately led to the creation of ‘Equality Coaching’.
Equality coaches work with kindergartens to identify their development objectives and design solutions together. Through the partnership educators are provided with tailored coaching, tools, and methods according to their specific needs.
One outcome of the equality coach partnership which is proving popular in many services is the weekly pedagogical bulletin which is distributed to parents. The bulletins are made together with the children to increase their recognition of the learning steps they have taken during the week, as well as to aid them in identifying their areas of interests. The bulletin also makes the thinking and learning of the children visible to parents by sharing stories of the learning opportunities the children have had during the week.
As an increasingly diverse city, Mr Godson said, Espoo puts special emphasis on inclusion and participation of children and families with a migrant background. Resources are translated into the home languages of parents, and interpreters are available to support them to easily access key information.
Using music as a joint language offers another avenue for every child to participate, be active, belong to and interact with the group. Espoo’s kindergartens’ joint music pedagogy moments include both familiar and new songs, instruments, pictures, and games. By repeating old and learning new skills, language learning happens in a fun way through an appropriate mix of routine and new experiences.
“Inclusive music pedagogy activities offer an alternative means of expression, with the emphasis away from linguistic ability. It helps many children to find a new type of courage to take part in the group also outside of the music pedagogy moments,” Ms Laine explained.
Investing in children is one of the priorities that will be discussed by city leaders at the Cities Social Summit organised by Eurocities online on 6 May.
To access the original coverage of this story, please see here.