Strategies for equal educational opportunities help rural municipalities to provide the youngest citizens with the best care and educational conditions. Local authorities and representatives of the local community – with the support of a facilitator from the Comenius Foundation – work out a long-term strategy for providing equal educational opportunities in a participatory process. This way of creating local legislation makes the local community more sensitive to the developmental needs of children and improves the quality of the municipality’s educational and care offer.

Advantages of the participatory method

Since 2006, the Comenius Foundation has been helping rural municipalities to develop long-term strategies for equal educational opportunities in education. Why do we encourage municipalities to develop educational strategies, although they are not “obligatory”? Because we believe that such strategies will make it easier for local authorities to take a holistic view of the development and educational needs of their youngest citizens, which has been confirmed in over 60 municipalities. We also wanted to involve the youngest children, for whom there is usually no sufficient educational offer, in the commune activities.

What makes our strategies different from typical documents developed by local authorities themselves or by external consultants? The participatory method of creating strategies, which assumes that the recipients of educational services, including children and young people, participate directly in the process. The participatory method, therefore, makes it possible to increase the active participation of residents in the process of building local educational policy. As a result, the activities planned in the strategy may better meet the expectations and preferences of the inhabitants, including children, young people and their parents, and more accurately respond to their real needs. Strategies for equalization of educational opportunities help rural municipalities to provide the youngest citizens with the best possible care and educational conditions. The participatory way of creating local legislation makes the local community more sensitive to the developmental needs of children and improves the quality of the municipal educational and care offer.

The participatory procedure for developing the strategy enables people who have never participated in such projects before to create a document that has the force of a resolution and to monitor its implementation. This is an important step in building a civil society in the municipality. By showing that the opinions and needs of residents count for them, local authorities can count on their cooperation and at the same time broaden their electorate. It is also important that long-term participatory strategies effectively resist political perturbations – even if the authorities change, the new team is obliged to implement the strategy and the local community will uphold this principle.

Why is participatory strategy development so important?

Participants working on local strategies say:

  • Gives the opportunity to meet in a new group – “How good that we could meet”.
  • Raises awareness of the importance of early childhood education – “I should have known this the day our child was born”.
  • Creates a platform for discussion and collaboration – “We never talked about this”, “I didn’t know you guys were doing this in our borough”.
  • Builds positive relationships between people interested in education – “We’ve done it before, we can help you”.
  • Integrates the local community – “We all need to do this”.
  • Emerges community leaders – “I will bring people together in our village”.
  • Team work increases effectiveness – “I didn’t think we had so many ideas”.

Why is it worth developing strategies in a participatory way?

The following are arguments of representatives of municipalities that have developed strategies:

  • creation of a planning document with which the commune inhabitants identify themselves and whose implementation is achievable;
  • the possibility of referring to the provisions of the strategy when applying for external funds – the strategy makes the commune’s needs credible and guarantees the continuation of activities included in the projects;
  • assistance in socialising education – increase in the sense of influence of individuals and groups on what is happening in the commune; opportunity for those who have not yet participated in commune discussions to have their say;
  • opportunity to analyse problems and determine their hierarchy and order of solution. Many key problems are sidelined, often they are not named in order not to violate the interests of powerful social and professional groups. The process of working out the strategy makes it possible to start discussions in the municipalities on the network of institutions, issues of financing municipal education, etc;
  • better identification by the municipality of the educational and developmental needs of children and their parents;
  • introducing new forms of education – for example, pre-school centres or playgroups
  • activation of local NGOs;
  • groups from villages located far from the centre of the commune becoming active in the community;
  • formation of a group of inhabitants interested in undertaking activities for the benefit of children – increase in social activity of parents and other inhabitants of the commune;
  • making the commune residents aware of the educational needs of young children;
  • rationalisation of the municipality’s expenditure on education;
  • creating an image of the municipality friendly to both children and adults.

For more information on strategy development, see the publications of the Comenius Foundation