Parental Involvement in the Development of Pre-School Education
(Bedeutung und Förderung der vorschulischen Erziehung und Bildung)

Connect Project DE- 001

The major aim of the project is to awaken the parent’s understanding for pre-school education.

A comparative perspective examines the administrative settings of early childhood education in France, Luxembourg and several Länder of Germany. The first impression of the differences in pre-school education is shown by the Participation rates of four years old children in education-oriented pre-primary institutions. From 1980 on, 100% of the French four years old children visited pre-primary education. In 1980, Germany has a participation rate of 65% of the four years’ olds; this rate increased to 81% in 1997. In 1980, Luxembourg started with a participation rate of 94% and reached 1995 the 100% participation rate of four years’ old children in pre-primary institutions.

Participation rates of 4-year-olds in education-oriented pre-primary institutions, as a percentage, from 1960 to 1997.


1960: n.a.
1970: n.a.
1980: 65
1990: 71
1996: 71
1997: 81


1960: 63
1970: 87
1980: 100
1990: 100
1996: 100
1997: 100


1960: 43
1970: 65
1980: 94
1990: 94
1996: 100
1997: 100

Source: Europäische Kommission, EURYDICE, Eurostat (eds) 2000

To provide information on pre-school education the input is given by 

1st on the scientific side of the input:

Education sciences,

brain research and neurological sciences,

cognitive psychology,

social sciences and demography, and

the political analysis of institutions of early childhood education.

2nd on the political and administrative side:

the legal laws and regulations,

the statistics, and

the various needs, demands and offers for early childhood education.

The new knowledge of the output addresses to

parents and parent associations,

guardians, caretakers and teachers as well as in primary education and pre-school education,

to political decision makers and the public.

This multi-disciplinary approach is established in three expert meetings in spring 2000, spring and fall 2001. During the expert meetings, participants of France, Luxembourg and Germany provide information on structural differences in the education systems, the various scientific basis of pre-school educational institutions and the historical development of early childhood education. The expert from the countries prepared the input to the pubic meetings of the parent association.

The public meetings of the parent association in fall 2000 and fall 2001 provide a very useful feed back to the expert group.

The main topic of the fall 2000 meeting was the national differences in “teaching” at the pre-school level. The understanding of guidance in early childhood differs in the three countries. The French system is more at the teaching end of this dimension, whereas in Germany “teaching” starts at primary school. The main part of the fall 2001 was the various national implementation of the pre-school systems in France, Luxembourg and Germany. Parents, people working at those institutions and administrative representatives present their experiences and try to learn from the neighbors’ country.

The conferences together with the parent associations provide a feedback to the expert group.

The fall 2001 public meeting is centered around the learning languages and the musical education. Introducing the different cultures of learning (and teaching) music, show the various conceptual and methodological disparities in the pre-primary education over the countries. Learning foreign language in early age is the second part of this conference. Growing Europe needs the knowledge of the neighbor’s language. But the participants report not only positive experiences. Also, strong concerns against the early start of teaching languages are presented.

multi dimensional approach is used to analyze the specific situation of early childhood education over the countries. Involved are actors with different interests and roles in the decision making process on early childhood education policies:

1st The parents: their participation rights in the decision making process, possibilities to influence the implementation of programs in pre-school education, the parent’s understanding of pre-school education, their chances to get information and the transparency of the system.

2nd The teachers at the various levels: their skills and (vocational) training, their competition, their knowledge, the teaching methods and curricula, their cooperation with parents, and the methods how the transition to school is managed.

3rd The children: their starting age, their cognitive, psychological and medical development, their starting situation in pre-school education and the equality of chances for the school live.

4th The organizational and institutional settings of early childhood education: The political and administrative responsibilities are an important issue. They vary from the ministry of education and culture to the ministry of social protection and from federal to local level of policy. The degree of obligation differs over the counties, and also the status of the provider can be a private institution or the pre-school education is provided by the state.

5th The cultural background may differ over the countries. Education as a social fact is influenced by the different values, the different understanding of education and training and the specific aims of education.

The final task of the project is to build up an electronic database on various information provided by the expert group and the parent association conferences. This will increase the transparency of the pre-school educational systems in France, Luxembourg and Germany. The results from the research will be presented in an easy accessible form and language that allows parents to get information on the strength and weakness on the early childhood education in the countries observed. So the influence of parents to the education policy will increase. Teachers may consult the database with an innovative motivation. Looking to the neighbors may increase the capacity to react on societal needs, like new technologies, the open society of citizens, and the need of learning foreign languages.

Objectives of the project

Parental Involvement in the Development of Pre-School Education
(Bedeutung und Förderung der vorschulischen Erziehung und Bildung)

Connect Project DE- 001

Recent discussion on education and schooling came to the conclusion, modern information societies need new concepts of education, schooling and training (Delors, J. 1996). Also methods of teaching have to be adapted to the needs of open societies with life long learning opportunities for the citizens (Weißbuch: Lehren und Lernen - auf dem Weg zur kognitiven Gesellschaft). Often this discussion asks for reforms on the pre-primary and primary school systems, better information for all responsible actors in this field, and a stronger integration of all actors into the process of changes.

The principal conditioning of young child character happens up to the age of six years. In most of the European countries compulsory education starts at the age of six years, therefore the main abilities how to learn is fixed before pupils enter the school system. For the life span before school age the responsibilities for the children are in the hands of parents and in the hand of institutions for early childhood education, voluntarily chosen by the parents.

But results from brain research and neurological sciences show the importance of these early ages for the development of the children, particularly the capacities to learn and for the learning of languages. Therefore the project aims to awake the knowledge on early childhood development. The support for young children before the compulsory school age is important for their start in the school system. At the entrance to school, equal opportunities and chances of young pupils are the good way to reduce social inequality and exclusion of the further European citizens. This part of the project will be examined on the example of learning foreign languages.

Based on a description of the pre-school education systems of France, Luxembourg and some German Länder, the national experiences are evaluated and strength and weakness are discussed for the a reorganization of the national pre-primary institutions.

Methodology and definitions used

Parental Involvement in the Development of Pre-School Education
(Bedeutung und Förderung der vorschulischen Erziehung und Bildung)

Connect Project DE- 001

The project is characterized by a multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary and comparative approach. The multi-dimensional approach is used to describe the national pre-school systems. Various academic disciplines explain the functions of the pre-school education and define the demands for modern citizens in an open society. The comparative method allows to learn from the neighbor’s regions in Europe, and to open the perspectives to reformulate the national concepts of education and schooling.

In a preparatory step the Elternverein Baden-Württemberg e.V. , the coordinator, looked for some high level persons to establish the expert group. The members of this team come from France, Luxembourg and Germany. They represent the national parent associations, the national administrations in charge of pre-school education and the academic sciences dealing with early child care and their institutions.

During the first meeting the experts introduce their national educational systems with a main focus on the pre-school institutions. They summarize the national discussion on education and schooling for early childhood. The main part is the distinction between care and schooling. The third issue is the relation between sciences on early childhood and the organization of the pre-school system. The institutionalization of pre-school education and the decision-making processes differ over countries according to their different use of academic knowledge during this discussion. The experts prepare presentations of their main findings.

The results of the expert group become a central part of a meeting with greater public. The parent’s associations of the three participating countries organize a conference with people coming from the practice of early childcare and pre-school education. Delegates from parent associations from France, Luxembourg and Germany, pre-school and primary school teachers, nursery school teachers, person working in kindergarten, responsible persons from the pre-school and primary school administration and people involved in the political discussion on early childhood education give valuable and precious feedback to the expert group.

The main focus of the second expert group meeting is the integration of knowledge coming from various academic fields, which deal with problems of pre-school education: Education sciences and teachers training, medical brain research and neurological sciences, cognitive psychology, social sciences and demography, and the political analyses of institutions of early childhood education are summarized with the main focus on the integration of specific own findings to the general approach of the project.

The second public conference is organized around the various methods and experiences on “teaching” or introducing foreign language skills and culture. The participants agree on the need of a life long learning for Europe and the cultural plurality of the European regions. But the conference also shows that there is no common method or understanding on how to introduce foreign language at the pre-school level. The three observed countries differ in the degree of importance they give to language learning in their pre-school institutions, they differ in the priority they give to the learning of the national language, and they also differ in the needs to prepare children for schooling in the “real” school system. The public’s need for further discussion and work become obvious.

The third expert meeting structures the outlines of the database, defines a priority list of information needed to be published in the Internet and comes to the conclusion, that there is a strong demand on comparative (empirical) research on early childhood and pre-school education.

Shown above, the strength of the project is a strong communication between the different academic and research professions on early childhood with the aim to understand better children’s possibilities and chances for the modern Europe. The second strong element of the project is the interaction between theory early childhood and practice of working with very young children during the pubic conferences. The rich input to the expert group is very useful and shows the direction for research.

For the purpose of the project we follow the proposed definitions of the OECD. “The term early childhood education and care (ECEC) includes all arrangements providing care and education for children under compulsory school age, regardless of settings, funding, opening hours, or programme content.” (OECD 2001a, p. 14). Like OECD we make no distinction between “care” and “education”, because we are looking for a concept of early childhood institution, which integrates both elements. We do not make a difference between services provided for “education” or “welfare”. An early childhood system that integrates both functions will open our perspective for new concepts.

“Pre-primary education (...): school-based and centre-based settings designed to meet the educational and developmental needs of children at least three years of age, which employ staff who is qualified to provide an educational programme for children.” (OECD 2001a, p. 19) Concerning the level of quality, we make no distinction on the different training institutions and level of diplomas for the people working in pre-primary education.