The international solidarity that we enjoy as OMEP members is empowering. It often gives us the confidence, strength and capability to stand up for the rights of children in our day to day lives. As a global association of members, we achieve much more than we could ever achieve in isolation. Perhaps even more importantly, in the process of our association we contribute towards breaking down the chauvinistic prejudices that sometimes lead to conflict, and at all times to wasteful competition, suffering and insecurity. We are united in our endeavours to create a more peaceful and sustainable future.
There have been many occasions where we have extended our international collaborations to closely involve our preschool children and their families as well. Engdal (2015) reported on collaborative OMEP projects involving 28 countries, 44,330 children and 13,225 teachers. Many hundreds of preschool communities in 10 countries were also involved in our development of the Education Rating Scale for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood (ERS-SDEC) (Siraj-Blatchford et al, 2016), and this international work is continuing. Macharia and Kimani (2016) wrote about the OMEP UK-Kenya partnerships between preschools that brought children together internationally, in the common playful experiences of growing food, in planting trees and in raising children’s aspirations towards professional careers as pictured above. Most importantly, the children were learning how they shared a common concern to create a more sustainable world, and they stood together as sustainable citizens in celebrating their combined efforts. This is just as we do ourselves every year in Congress.
In 2016 Lilian Atieno Okal brought her Kenyan children’s celebration of water conservation to a preschool in England which enriched the education of both the children and their teachers who learnt about the resilience that may be gained through play. There have been many more projects involving other international exchanges. If we are to further develop an Early Childhood Education for Sustainable Citizenship, we need to develop many more of these exchanges. Mobile telephones provide a powerful means by which pictures and voices may be shared, and while all of the projects outlined above benefitted from the sharing of a common language, Google Translate and other tools may be used even where language is a barrier. There are, in any case, many exchanges possible between the global North and South where nations share a knowledge of Portuguese, Spanish, French or English.
In the UK, we have developed an Early Childhood Education for Sustainable Citizenship Award scheme to promote this process. It provides OMEP -UK preschools with all of the resources they require in the development of a parent partnership in support of each child’s emergent sustainable citizenship. The resources centre around an ESC ‘Passport’ that defines the child’s sustainable citizenship, it outlines the UN convention on the Rights of the Child, and it provides the child with discounted entry (with an accompanying parent) to museums, wildlife parks, etc. Booklets of activities are provided with simple activities that parents and children may engage in to learn about and take actions for sustainability. The resources emphasise the interdependence of people locally and internationally, and the interdependence that we all have with nature. As each activity booklet is completed, the child is given an (eco-friendly) sticker to place in their passport, and these represent the ‘visas’ collected on their learning journey towards sustainable citizenship.
When a preschool setting has at least 60% of their children and families engaged in the out of school activities, and they have been able to show that their curriculum within the setting has been developed to an appropriate sustainable standard (using an audit tool adapted from the ERS-SDEC) they may then apply to the OMEP-UK ESC Award Committee for accreditation as an OMEP-UK Sustainable Citizenship Award Preschool at Bronze, Silver or at Gold level.
At the Silver level of the Award, preschool settings are required to develop a project in collaboration with a preschool overseas (we are an Island nation). If you can help our preschools find appropriate partners to work with, then do let us know at: email@example.com
We would also like to discuss the possibility of developing this OMEP Award schemes for use in other countries. The OMEP-UK Education for Sustainable Citizenship Award presents humankind (as a species) as interdependent with the natural world, recognising that the plants and animals around us live in an ecological balance, and that we are also interdependent with each other, as individuals, as groups, cultures, and as nations. In terms of early childhood development and learning, our understanding of interdependency begins with our learning about ourselves, and about how we respect and care for each other and the wider environment.
In the promotion and dissemination of the award, SchemaPlay, in partnership with OMEP-UK, offer accredited training and resources for experienced independent early years trainers and support staff, so that they can work with settings in achieving the Award. The activities and experiences of ESC that are being introduced through the scheme have been found to improve learning outcomes and wellbeing right across the curriculum, the setting and in the wider community.
Engdal, I. (2015) Early Childhood Education for Sustainability: The OMEP World Project, International Journal of Early Childhood 47(3) p347-66
Macharia, M. and Kimani, N. (2016) Early Childhood Education For Sustainable Development in Kenya, in Siraj-Blatchford, J., Park, E. and Mogharreban, C. (Eds.) International Research on Education for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood, Springer Books
Siraj-Blatchford, J., Park, E. and Mogharreban, C. (Eds) (2016) International Research on Education for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood, Springer
Siraj-Blatchford, J., and Brock, L. (2016) Education for Sustainable Citizenship in Early Childhood, https://schemaplay.com/publications/ Siraj-Blatchford, J., and Brock, L. (forthcoming 2021) SchemaPlay: an embodied, ecological and child centred approach to early childhood education, SchemaPlay Publications
John Siraj-Blatchford is a member of the OMEP-UK executive committee, an honorary Professor of the University of Plymouth, and a co-director of SchemaPlay which developed the OMEP-UK Early Childhood Education for Sustainable Citizenship Award. He has published widely on early childhood education for sustainable development, and took the lead in developing the original OMEP Educational Rating Scale Sustainable Development in Early Childhood (ERS-SDEC). He edited the report of that project: International Research on Education for Sustainable Development in Early Childhood, and he also contributed towards, and continues to promote, the OMEP Wash from the Start programme. He was commissioned by UNESCO to co-author an ECCE review of the UNESCO Decade for Education for Sustainable development, and he chaired the ECCE for Sustainable Development workshop at the 2015 UNESCO ‘End of Decade’ ESD Conference in Nagoya, Japan. His most recent publications may be accessed (many for free download) at: www.schemaplay.com