Making Progress toward Global Inclusive Educational Reform.Step by Step

Teaching Exceptional Children, September/October 2003 | Go to article overview

Making Progress toward Global Inclusive Educational Reform.Step by Step


A New Partnership

The call for reform in early childhood education is global in scope, as is the need to advance services worldwide to children with exceptionalities. A recent partnership between The Open Society Institute (OSI-Soros foundations) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) champions both those needs through a project called the Step by Step Disability Initiative.

The Step by Step Program

The Soros foundations network, founded by philanthropist George Soros, established the Step by Step Program in 1994.

Step by Step promotes system-wide educational reform in countries transitioning to free societies by encouraging democratic thinking and ideals. Further, the Step by Step program endorses child-centered education for children from birth through age ten; provides appropriate learning environments for underserved populations such as Roma children, minorities, and children with disabilities; and encourages the participation of parents and the community at large. Overall, Step by Step seeks to provide equal access to quality education for all children, regardless of race, economic, or cultural background.

Step by Step maintains a presence in 29 countries, including Central and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Mongolia, and Haiti. Multiple Step by Step programs exist in each country that offer developmentally appropriate educational programs to children within participating classrooms and schools. Step by Step Country Directors ensure that regional training centers have the curricular materials, technical support, and professional development resources necessary to succeed locally.

Each country appoints one local Step by Step organization to collaborate with the International Step by Step Association (ISSA), which is registered in The Netherlands and based in Hungary. ISSA is the nongovernmental membership organization that unites Step by Step programs in all participating countries, promoting global visibility and efficacy. Members include early childhood professionals, teachers, trainers, and representatives of international organizations. ISSA helps members to advocate for policy reform, obtain training resources and technical assistance, form strategic alliances with organizations that have similar missions, and implement new local or international projects.

CEC Supports OSI's Disability Initiative

At the invitation of OSI, CEC applied for and received a grant to support OSI's Disability Initiative for Step by Step. CEC is providing multi-media training resources, in-country training and mentoring by U.S. and European disability experts, and technical assistance to the institutions that participants in this Disability Initiative. …

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