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Toward an equal start

Closing the early learning gap for Roma children in Eastern Europe

A large body of international evidence underscores the importance of early intervention – from conception to age 8 - for child development and later life outcomes. This includes recent articles in The Lancet (2011) pointing to the long-term benefits of early childhood development in institutions and at home, including quality preschool. Early childhood development programs are particularly beneficial to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Effective investments in this area have the potential to reduce inequalities perpetuated by poverty, poor nutrition, and restricted learning opportunities. This report explores the gaps in early education and care experienced by Roma children between the ages of 3 and 6 in Eastern Europe, and looks at measures to close those gaps

New evidence from the UNDP/World Bank/EC regional Roma survey implemented in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic (2011), similarly points to the benefits of preschool for Roma children. For example, Roma children currently in preschool have better cognitive outcomes, and those who attended pre-school are much more likely to complete secondary school than Roma children from the same communities and with similar backgrounds who have not attended preschool. They are also much less likely (33% reduction in the Czech Republic and 70% in Slovakia) to be enrolled into special needs primary schools designed for children with learning disabilities.