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Introduction ISSA is a learning community powered by its members; we work together to put high-quality and equitable Early Childcare Development (ECD) services at the heart of communities, schools and governments. Over the years, ISSA members have benefitted from Peer Learning Activities (PLAs) that build their capacity, deliver networking opportunities, develop their knowledge of best practices, and more.

2016 PEER LEARNING ACTIVITY FACTS AT A GLANCE Over the course of 2016 ISSA supported 11 Peer Learning Activities in 20 countries, involving 23 member organizations

PLAs stem from the desire that our community shares more about: how other countries develop solutions in the field of Early Childhood Education and Care; how to learn from similar problems; and how we can build upon existing knowledge. When asked to rate PLAs, members say that they are among the greatest benefits of being a member of ISSA. Members defined these activities as “long-lasting partnership building”, “learning from your neighbor countries”, “very relevant knowledge and directly applicable to our context”. Over the course of 2016, ISSA supported 11 Peer Learning Activities engaging 23 members in 20 countries. The range of topics covered, and the results clearly demonstrate the advantages of being a member of ISSA: advocacy, strategic planning, taking stock of positive changes, moving ahead on training in education and health services. All the Peer Learning Activities are financially supported by ISSA with financial or in-kind contributions from members. If you would like to participate, we invite you to join as a member of ISSA.

ISSA Peer Learning Activities 2016


PLAs 2016 – Locations Albania l Tirana Belarus l Minsk Belgium l Ghent Bosnia and Herzegovina l Sarajevo Bulgaria l Sofia Croatia l Zagreb Estonia l Tartu Hungary l Budapest Kosovo l Pristina Kyrgyzstan l Bishkek

long-lasting partnership building

learning from your neighbor countries

Macedonia l Delcevo, Skopje Montenegro l Podgorica Moldova l Chisinau Netherlands l Wageningen Poland l Warsaw Serbia l Belgrade Slovakia l Ziar nad Hronom Slovenia l Ljubljana Tajikistan l Dushanbe Ukraine l Kiev

very relevant knowledge and directly applicable to our context 3

PRECEDE: a new strategy in Early Childhood Development for Kosovo Balkan Sunflowers Kosovo (BSFK) applied for this Peer Learning Activity to contribute to achieving their goal: Ensuring access and equity of education for young children. Such an ambitious objective requires a sound plan: this is why BSFK created a new national strategy to achieve reforms on diversity in early education.


• A new strategy paper on ECD

• 25 participants

• Ministry of Education and stakeholders from 6 countries involved

Interestingly, it did so in cooperation with an international alliance called PRECEDE (Partnership for Reconciliation through Early Childhood Education and Development in Europe): a coalition of organizations that promote Early Childhood Development (ECD) in six countries – Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Northern Ireland and Serbia. A wide range of experts contributed to the creation of this strategy: teachers and facilitators of learning centres, representatives of the Ministry of Education of Kosovo, the Kosovo Education Centre, Steb by Step Albania, SOS Children’s Villages and several civil society organizations from Kosovo and Albania. Following on from the strategy development, BSFK also led a training on ‘Education for Social Justice’ for 25 participants including children – for whom a separate set of materials had already been produced. In the future, the strategy will support the development of a sustainable national network of civil society organizations to promote acceptance of others and respect for diversity in early childhood education in Kosovo.



Stronger Together: ISSA members coordinate action on European Quality Framework Bureau MUTANT, the Netherlands, together with the Centre for Innovation in the Early Years (VBJK), Belgium developed a training package for early childhood training providers called “5 Steps to Quality”. The training is aimed at translating the European Quality Framework (EQF) for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) into practice. The “5 Steps to Quality” was introduced to schools and civil society organizations in Belgium and the Netherlands in 2015–2016.

PLAs become small learning communities; people from different countries start working together and can easily continue this collaboration in the future.

ISSA members from Bulgaria, Moldova, Montenegro, Macedonia and Slovenia attended a three-day workshop on the “5 Steps to Quality”. “We are all here to get ideas that can be brought home and be used to either set a network, stimulate mentorship or reflect on similarities and differences among countries’ contexts”, said Anke van Keulen, Bureau MUTANT Director, who co-led the PLA. The EQF for ECEC is an important policy document that sets guidelines for improving quality ECEC in all EU member states. The document is the result of research done in 30 countries, to which different stakeholders, including ISSA, contributed.


The training package “5 Steps to Quality” supports building and improving quality in ECEC at country and organizational level. It focuses on the five quality elements in the EQF (accessibility, workforce, curriculum, monitoring and evaluation, finance and governance). The aim of the workshop was to link these five quality elements with the context and laws of each of the participant’s countries. All the participants have committed to keep working together until the training is widespread in each of their countries. The attendees greatly appreciated the workshop, and agreed to develop an action plan to introduce the training package in their own countries.



A School of Conscious Fatherhood in Poland and Tajikistan ISSA members, the Belarusian League of Parents and Teachers (Krok za Krokam) and Comenius Foundation, Poland came together in 2016 to support interaction between children and their fathers in Poland, Belarus and Tajikistan. Building on the successful work carried out together in 2015, Krok za Krokam and Comenius Foundation met again in 2016 to build the capacity of educators to set-up the ‘School of Conscious Fatherhood’, aimed at supporting fathers to strengthen their interactions with children and nurture their learning through play.

FACTS AT A GLANCE • 10 educators and 3 NGO representatives trained • A total of 10 Schools of Conscious Fatherhood created in Poland and Tajikistan • About 70 children and 70 parents enabled to use techniques of learning through play

Thanks to the training, attended by 10 educators and three civil society representatives; eight new Schools of Conscious Fatherhood have been created in Poland and Tajikistan. About 70 children and 70 parents have to are already enabled to use techniques of learning through play. In addition, a methodological booklet dedicated to the dissemination of best practices was published and eight modules for School of Conscious Fatherhood were developed and adapted to the Polish and Tajik context. In the future, Krok za Krokam plans to increase the number of educational platforms on which to introduce the practice, this will also result in organizing of more playgroups and better interactions between fathers and children aged birth to 10. PARTNERING MEMBERS


WANDA meets Hea Algus (Estonia) Within ISSA, learning from other members is key. In this PLA the Belgian method for group learning and reflection called WANDA (Appreciate, Analyse and Deeds) created by Artevelde University College, traveled to Estonia thanks to another ISSA member, Hea Algus.

ABOUT WANDA WANDA is a method to analyze and reflect on professional practices in a group setting. It is a process in time and, when performed on a regular basis, can support the professional development of practitioners and teams and thus improve practices for the benefit of children, parents and communities. The materials for this training were developed by ISSA members from Belgium, VBJK and Artevelde University College and adapted to the local context.

WANDA is a method to examine and improve practice through a group reflection process. Artevelde University College prepared the ‘WANDA Training Programme’ for professionals who work with children aged birth to 10. The aim of this PLA was to adapt the WANDA training for a foreign context. Hea Algus, a civil society network of teachers, educational leaders and experts were keen to bring WANDA to Estonia. On the wave of a series of successful trainings run in Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia and Czech Republic, Artevelde University College agreed to help Hea Algus build the capacity of its members. ISSA was happy to continue to support this initiative. In this PLA around 24 teachers and trainers working in kindergartens, schools and advisory centers attended the WANDA training, enabling them to use the method with their peer to improve practice. Following the activity, an action plan was prepared to scale-up WANDA trainings in Estonia. Hea Algus is planning to train various groups that live/work with children, such as young parents at risk, specialists in the socio-educational, medical and legislative field. PARTNERING MEMBERS

To find out more about WANDA, go to en/wanda/ 8

Learning about quality education for vulnerable children in Poland Foundation Education Initiatives Support (FEIS), Kyrgyzstan visited the Comenius Foundation, Poland to learn best practices on service provision for vulnerable children. The FEIS staff visited provision centers for children and met families who have children of pre-school age there. They also had the chance to discuss community-based strategies with representatives of local authorities. As part of the visit, FEIS also attended the conference: “The first 1000 days of a child”, where they learned more about the Comenius Foundation’s programmes on the training for practitioners. FEIS were so inspired by the work done by the Comenius Foundation in Poland that they have decided to learn from them in other fields, for example, on the alternative development in preschool education and on their cooperation with local government and other civil society organizations. Following this activity FEIS is planning to develop their own set of educational services for early childhood development in private and public pre-schools.



High-level events bring education in Eastern Europe into the spotlight The Centre for Educational Initiatives Step by Step, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) organized two high-level events with a focus on education: “The 4th edition of the Regional Conference for Educators” on 25–28 August 2016 in Neum, and “The Education Fair” in Sarajevo on October 28, 2016.

FACTS AT A GLANCE • Education fair with over 200 attendees including representatives of the Ministry of Education, pedagogical institutes and civil society organizations. • 5 Countries involved: Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Macedonia

“The Education Fair”, gathered about 200 representatives from Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Macedonia including 12 representatives from the respective Ministries of Education, experts and 20 civil society representatives active in Eastern Europe. The event marked the 20th anniversary of the Step by Step programme in BiH. “The Education Fair” was also the occasion to coordinate forces around the creation of a regional platform dedicated to teaching professionals and education in the region. “The 4th edition of the Regional Conference for Educators” was attended by 320 teachers and education professionals. The event promoted high-quality education and competent systems for the workforce. It shared key messages and distributed manuals based on the Step by Step programme to practitioners.



Together with Romani families – plans for integration in Slovakia Embracing diversity by combating poverty and social exclusion of Romani children and families, was the objective of this PLA. This activity took stock of Wide Open School’s strategy on Roma inclusion and brought together three ISSA members from Ukraine, Slovenia and Croatia – to learn about Romani integration in Slovakia.


• Kosice is the biggest town ghetto in Slovakia.

• Wide Open School partnered with 3 Step by Step organizations from Ukraine, Slovenia and Croatia

The participants saw how the civil society, jointly with municipality officials and Roma community representatives, created strategies to prevent marginalization of Romani in housing provision and schooling. Partnering members attended a workshop on how to help marginalized Romani communities flourish by fostering cross-national cooperation of practitioners working with Romani children. In addition, the three visiting members received insights on the situation: on the ground they attended a round-table discussion with representatives of Romani communities; they went to schools with high enrolment rates of Romani children, and met the mayors of three cities, one of which – Kosice – hosts the biggest Romani ghetto in Slovakia.



Better workforce leaders for better education ISSA member, the Step by Step Centre for Quality in Education in Slovenia has established a Step by Step Network for Changing Quality. Their members are vibrant Professional Learning Communities: groups of practitioners who promote learning in teams and high quality professionalism in 36 ECEC settings and elementary schools, involving more than 1,200 teachers and principals.


During this PLA, representatives of the Step by Step Centre for Quality in Education were hosted by ISSA Member Bureau MUTANT from the Netherlands, to learn how to strengthen the capacity of their Professional Learning Communities leaders.

It was extremely useful and meaningful for us. [...] we have come up with interesting and important insights on our role of coaches and will be able to transfer it to our context in Slovenia.


During the trip, they received training on a model of Permanent Learning in Teams, which was based on the Utrecht ECEC Quality Framework. Following that they visited a school in Utrecht where they learned, among other things, how the Utrecht ECEC Quality Framework has been implemented in schools and how this could be translated to their own country. In addition, they received resources for coaching leaders of professional learning communities. The ISSA Principles of Quality Pedagogy were imbedded in the whole process of the training. After this study visit, the Step by Step Centre for Quality in Education brought back the acquired stock of knowledge and shared it with their Professional Learning Communities leaders in Slovenia. PARTNERING MEMBERS


Mastering the Most Significant Change Method Learning a new monitoring and evaluation methodology called ‘Most Significant Change’ brought four ISSA members to Hungary to attend a workshop hosted by Partners Hungary Foundation. The workshop was attended by the Open Academy Step by Step, Croatia, the Step by Step Program, Moldova, the Step by Step Foundation for Educational and Cultural Initiatives of Macedonia and Balkan Sunflowers Kosovo.

We had a great brainstorming using the ‘Most Significant Change’ logic framework! The method is very useful especially if you are interested in testimonials, extreme cases and lessons learned.

What is the ‘Most Significant Change’ (MSC) method? It is a method of “monitoring without indicators” (but can also be used in evaluations); it is participatory and particularly useful in projects where many partners are involved. It is especially useful for projects run in extreme situations where results are not easily predictable. The MSC method focuses on sharing the most relevant changes and in some cases entails spending time in communities to record stories of people with extraordinary experiences. Then, a panel of both practitioners and policy makers selects and analyzes the stories, finally results are discussed and used during ‘lessons learned sessions’. Participants learned how the logic framework of the method works and created a strategy on how to apply it to their own projects. PARTNERING MEMBERS


Empowering Roma families in Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia Social inclusion of Roma families was at the core of this activity. ISSA members NGO Kham, Macedonia, the Pedagogical Center of Montenegro and CIP-Interactive Pedagogy Center in Serbia came together to share insights on successful inclusion programs for young children. Two examples of such programs were the Toy Library project and the “Social Inclusion of Romani Children in Kindergarten”. The Toy Library project in particular, nurtured the relationship of Roma parents and children in the earliest years of development. The results encouraged the visiting organizations to initiate similar projects in their own countries.

Our objective is to advocate for the creation of special measures to further the social and economic integration of migrant families in the three countries.

Within the PLA, partnering members also visited the Roma camps and learned about how NGO Kham promote provision services, and help the community with health issues within Early Childhood Development (ECD). The visit was also a great opportunity to share strategies towards the emancipation of Romani women and mothers. NGO Kham presented their best practices on supporting young Romani women wanting to start their own business or entering the job market. This PLA resulted in a strategic plan to advocate for the rights of Roma families in the region and at a local level. The three members involved developed policy recommendations to be sent to the relevant Ministries of the respective countries. PARTNERING MEMBERS


Helping children grow to the fullest Helping children aged 5 to 10 reach their full potential was the objective of this PLA. The Open Academy Step by Step, Croatia, coordinated the development of an innovative set of training modules for parents, preschools and elementary school educators. Five ISSA members contributed to this activity: the Center for Educational Initiatives Step by Step, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Step by Step Foundation for Educational and Cultural Initiatives of Macedonia, the Pedagogical Center of Montenegro, CIP-Center for Interactive Pedagogy, Serbia and the Step by Step Centre for Quality in Education, Slovenia.


The modules focus on three main topics:

• Living values

• How to grow a mind?

• The socio-emotional development of children

The modules propose an outstanding set of tools that focus on three main topics: 1) Living values: it helps teachers and parents learn how to support children understand, internalize and live universal values 2) How to grow a mind? it encourages the development of positive attitudes and critical thinking through a series of activities between children and parents, using play, educational materials, and themes close to children’s interests 3) The socio-emotional development of children: it stimulates thinking about the self and the child’s relationship with the others. The modules are available online and will be disseminated at the Annual Conference of Educators planned for August 2017 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Open Academy Step by Step, Croatia also plans to create training sessions for teachers to learn the modules.



ISSA is an international learning community powered by the leading early childhood experts in Europe and Central Asia. ISSA unites and supports professionals and partners to deliver high quality early years services equitably.

ISSA – International Step by Step Association Kinderrechtenhuis / Child Rights Home Hooglandse Kerkgracht 17-R 2312 HS Leiden The Netherlands Tel: +31 (0)71 516 1222 Fax: +31 (0)71 516 1220 E-mail:

ISSA Peer Learning Activities Report 2016  

Explore the peer to peer learning activities. supported by ISSA. Enjoy the capacity building exercises and mutual learning conducted by ISSA...

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