Research article

Improving Roma participation in European early childhood education systems through cultural brokering

Authors
  • Sarah Klaus
  • Iram Siraj

Abstract

The Roma are Europe's largest minority ethnic group, yet too few Roma achieve a level of education that enables them to secure employment or positive life chances. Gaps in their attainment compared to other ethnic groups start to appear in the earliest years, with Roma participating in early education at half the rate of their peers. The European Commission has established expectations to increase participation rates, but change is painfully slow. Institutionalized discrimination and poverty underpin many structural factors, such as shortages of preschool places and unaffordable fees and costs, that are in a large part responsible for the low participation of Roma in early education. Yet multiple reports highlight cultural barriers as an additional significant challenge for Roma families, and recommend employing Roma as teaching assistants to bridge cultural differences. This article presents evidence from two qualitative studies that explore the impact of employing Roma in early childhood settings. The first, a survey conducted in the 21 European countries with the largest Roma populations, establishes current hiring trends and motivations for hiring Roma early childhood education staff, and estimates that at least 40,000 additional Roma staff are needed to ensure their proportionate representation in the workforce. The second uses case study methodology to capture learning from Serbia and the UK, where introducing Roma assistants is helping to bridge cultural barriers to Roma participation in early education. The article concludes with the observation that the social inclusion of Roma will also require interventions that start well before children enter formal education.

Keywords: ROMA, EARLY EDUCATION, TEACHING ASSISTANTS, CULTURAL BROKERS, EUROPE

How to Cite:

Klaus, S. & Siraj, I., (2020) “Improving Roma participation in European early childhood education systems through cultural brokering”, London Review of Education 18(1), 50–64. doi: https://doi.org/10.18546/LRE.18.1.04

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Published on
29 Feb 2020
Peer Reviewed
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