70th OMEP World Assembly and Conference
World Assembly: 25 - 26 of June 2018, Prague, Hotel Olympik
International Conference: 27 - 29 of June, 2018, Prague, Hotel Clarion
CONDITIONS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION TODAY:
A FOUNDATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Every year OMEP (Organisation Mondiale pour l´Éducation Préscolaire) – the World Organization for Early Childhood Education – holds a World Assembly, which is attended by delegates from all over the world. Organised together with the OMEP World Assembly is an international conference, which is always a prestigious professional event for the host country. The conference enables experience to be exchanged by renowned experts in early childhood education from the academic sphere, but is also attended by representatives of organisations such as UNICEF.
The Czech Republic was chosen as the host for the OMEP World Assembly and Conference in 2018. In this year OMEP celebrates its 70th anniversary since its establishment. This organisation was first founded in the Czech Republic 70 years ago.
The World Assembly of OMEP members was held in the Artemis Hotel in Prague 8 on 25th and 26th June 2018 and was attended by 150 OMEP members from 49 countries. The guests were welcomed by World President and National President of the OMEP Czech National Committee Dana Moravcová. The morning agenda, prepared by the OMEP executive committee, included the elections of the regional presidents for Europe and Africa. The agenda then continued with presentations of OMEP members until lunchtime.
After lunch the guests moved on to the Karolinum, where OMEP was founded after the Second World War, at the first World Conference, held from 26th – 28th August 1948. At the Karolinum speeches were given welcoming the guests by the President of the OMEP Czech National Committee, the World President and the Rector of Charles University Tomáš Zima, who assumed the patronage of the entire event. The programme continued with a presentation by Professor Karel Rýdl on the development of Czech preschool education in comparison with the rest of the world. At the end of the meeting there was a performance by the university Piccolo Orchestra and Piccolo chora in the Karolinum auditorium, presenting works by Czech composers.
After a group photo shoot in the atrium, by the statue of Jan Hus, the guests moved on to the grand reception in the cellars of the Karolinum, where the former World President Selma Simonstein called for a toast and lit the candles on the 70th anniversary cake.
On 26th June 2018 the World Assembly continued with the meetings in the morning and afternoon sections. In the morning the participants gathered to discuss the topic of care for children up to the age of 8 in the individual regions (continents). They then debated on the outcomes. The afternoon was the same, with the guests divided up into five sections according to their particular topic. As in the morning, they then met up to discuss the outcomes. At the end of the World Assembly the World President gave thanks for the work done by the current regional presidents whose mandate ends on 31 December 2018, Mr Nektarios Stellakis (Europe) and Mrs Abimbola Are (Africa) and ended the 70th World Assembly.
At 8.00 p.m. he guests gathered at the Image Black Light Theatre on Národní třída in Prague 1, to see a performance entitled The Best of Image. The animation of the OMEP and conference logo was a surprise for everyone, who greatly appreciated this detail.
On the morning of Wednesday 27 June 2018 the participants had the chance to visit elementary schools in Prague. This excursion attracted a great deal of interest. In the first phase the organisers offered 300 places, but due to demand the final number of places for the school visits was increased to almost 500. The guests visited a total of 26 schools from Prague 2,3,4, 5, 6,8 and 10. The school heads prepared tours of their school, brief performances by the children and space for discussion for the guests from all over the world.
Given the high number of participants the departures to the elementary schools from the Clarion Hotel in Vysočany were organised in three waves. The visits to the elementary schools, organised by Ludmila Šprachtová, went very smoothly. The guests were delighted with the visits and praised the obliging and willing approach shown by the school heads and their employees. The guests appreciated not only how well equipped the schools were, but also the Czech system of early childhood education, which is based primarily on play and thus reflects the true needs of preschool children.
The grand opening of the conference took place on 27th June 2018 at 4.00 p.m. in the conference hall of the Clarion Hotel in Vysočany. The OMEP Czech National Committee chose the conference topic Current Conditions of Early Childhood Education – the Basis for a Sustainable Future. The conference topic was based on the idea that the conditions in which children live in the present day have a significant impact on their future. The living conditions of children around the world, their care, upbringing and education not only affect their own future, but also the future of society as a whole. What we do for their individual and common development, now and in the future, is therefore important.
The entire conference was simultaneously interpreted into the three OMEP official languages – English, French and Spanish.
This important anniversary, the appealing topic and the conference venue attracted almost 700 participants to the Czech Republic, from 67 countries around the world.
The welcome speech at the grand opening of the conference was given by Czech OMEP President Dana Moravcová, World President Eunhye Park and OMEP European President Nektarios Stellakis. This was followed by a flag ceremony involving children from the “Čtyřlístek” elementary school from Prague 2, who brought the flags of all the participating countries, made by the children. As the flags were displayed the delegates of the individual countries stood up and greeted the others. A performance by the Osminka folk group, which appeared twice, was a pleasant diversion. Deputy Minister of Education Dana Prudíková spoke about the current situation in early childhood education in the Czech Republic. The Mayor of the City of Prague, Adriana Krnáčová, who had assumed the patronage of the event, had promised to come, but cancelled at the last minute. The high point of the entire afternoon was a presentation by Audrey Curtis from Great Britain, the former World President. In her presentation she pondered the role and importance of OMEP in the years between 1948 and 2018. A short welcome speech was also given by Kaj Folster, the daughter of Alva Myrdal, one of the OMEP founders.
The grand opening ended with a second performance by Osminka. The guests then moved to the conference rooms, where a reception was prepared for the start of the conference, enabling the guests to share their impressions and exchange experience.
The conference continued in the days that followed, with other speakers giving their presentations in the afternoon. On 28th June a presentation was given by Ingrid Enghdal from Sweden, who spoke about successful projects involving working with small children in education on sustainable development. At the end of Ingrid Enghdal’s speech Ingrid Pramling presented awards to the most successful implementers of the worldwide project announced by OMEP. Other speakers were Ondřej Kaščák and Bronislav Pupala from Slovakia, who presented their experience with care for preschool children in certain less developed countries, namely Nepal and Malaysia, and compared the early childhood education systems in European countries.
More speakers have presentations on 29th June 2018. Patricia Sarlé from Argentina compared care for preschool children in rural areas with care for children in towns and cities. The last speaker was Kathy Sylva from Great Britain, whose presentation focused on the early childhood preparation of children and support for basic skills enabling them to cope with further education. Members of the audience were taken by her opinion that there is no need to create complicated curricula. Well-trained and prepared teachers and well-equipped elementary schools are the basis for early childhood preparation. A well-prepared teacher can do a good job of developing children without needing a state-defined syllabus. She backed up her claim with research, in which she compared school success rates at a later age in children who attended good and less good elementary schools or who did not attend elementary school at all.
After these two days the conference continued in the afternoons in parallel sections held in 11 rooms of the Clarion Hotel. The successful presenters (we received 600 abstracts, 450 of which were accepted) had the chance to present their projects in the form of symposiums (21), individual presentations or poster presentations. The topics were based on eight sub-topics arising from the main topic of the conference. The conference enabled renowned academic and practical experts to exchange their experience on the given topic, focusing on:
INCLUSIVE EARLY CHILDHOOD SETTINGS (all forms of institutional care and education, i.e. elementary schools, crèches, children’s groups, quality and availability for all children)
FAMILY SUPPORT (the nuclear family, extended family, relatives, friends, all family resources for education, the education and development of children, including school and family cooperation)
PLAY (supporting learning through play, play initiated by the child, play initiated by an adult, free play)
ART (fine art, music, drama, literature developing creativity and aesthetic perception and feeling in children)
TECHNOLOGY (information and communication technologies, supporting creativity, communication, orientation in the contemporary world)
CULTURAL, SOCIAL AND LANGUAGE DIVERSITY (methods of teaching and understanding others and their different life conditions, social (in)equality)
COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND COOPERATION (the broader context and social partners of early childhood care, upbringing and education)
OBJECTIVES OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (social, economic and environmental pillar)
The closing ceremony of the conference took place in the late afternoon on 29th June 2018. The closing speech was given by the OMEP World President and OMEP Czech President, who informed the participants of the text of the declaration which forms the outcome of the World Assembly and Conference each year. The closing programme was prepared by Wattsenglish. Finally, the OMEP Czech President presented the flag to the OMEP President of Panama, where the World Assembly and Conference will be held in 2019.
The conference included an exhibition to mark the 70th anniversary of OMEP, charting the organisation’s events and activities from when it was first established through to the present day. The exhibition was prepared by OMEP Czech National Committee members Marie Marxtová and Jaroslava Břízová in collaboration with the National Pedagogical Museum and Library of J. A. Comenius. The attention of the conference participants was also caught by an exhibition of pictures by Czech elementary school children on the topic of sustainable development, prepared by Jana Prekopová.
At the beginning of the school year, the President visited the Nedvězská Elementary School to meet representatives of the elementary schools involved in organising the excursions for the conference participants. It was very rewarding to hear that the visits to the elementary schools were appreciated not only by the guests from abroad, but also by the school heads and teachers involved in organising them. One highly positive outcome of the event was that some schools have started to collaborate with elementary schools abroad.
We believe that the event as a whole did a great deal to raise awareness of early childhood education in the Czech Republic throughout the world. We were delighted by the feedback we received during and soon after the conference.
The patronage of the entire event was assumed by the Minister of Education, the Rector of Charles University, the Mayor of the City of Prague and the Dean of the Faculty of Education of Masaryk University in Brno.
The partners of the event were the Faculty of Education of Charles University, Wattsenglish and the National Pedagogical Museum and Library of J. A. Comenius in Prague. The media partners were Učitelské noviny, Informatorium 3-8, the Forum publishing house, Řízení školy.
The event was sponsored by the boroughs of Prague 8, Prague 3, Prague 2, Prague City Council, Zábavné učení, Alkion and Semo výtahy.
The conference was covered by the Czech News Agency (ČTK) and then by Seznam television on the afternoon news and by Czech Radio in the show Témata podle Barbory Tachecí (Topic with Barbora Tachecí), where the President was broadcast live.
Assistance in organising the World Assembly and Conference was provided by Rubio and the students of the Faculty of Education of Charles University.
PhDr. Dana Moravcová, Ph.D.
National President of OMEP Czech National Committee