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Support to Children at Risk of Social Exclusion as a Component of Inclusive Education in Croatian Early Childhood Education and Care Institutions

Dejana Bouillet, Marina Panić
Faculty of Teacher Education, University of Zagreb

Abstract. Children’s participation in high-quality early childhood education and care (hereinafter ECEC) institutions and inclusive pedagogical practice represent an important compensatory mechanism that significantly reduces the risk of children’s social exclusion. The role of ECEC is to contribute to the reduction or possible elimination of the risks of social exclusion (hereinafter RSE) of children and the consequences of their unfavourable actions through systematic preventive action. The scientific project “Models of Response to Educational Needs of Children at Risk of Social Exclusion in ECEC Institutions” (MORENEC, hereafter the Project MORENEC), funded by the Croatian Science Foundation, is focused on issues arising from this topic. This research is an integral part of the Project, and its goal is to analyse how Croatian ECEC institutions contribute to the prevention of the RSE of children in order to prevent unfavourable developmental outcomes.
The data were collected on a sample of 65 ECEC institutions, which is representative for Croatia. The obtained results indicate an uneven practice of preventing the RSE in Croatian ECEC institutions. Various methods, programmes and techniques are used to prevent the RSE of children. Only a third of ECEC institutions implement comprehensive, structured preventive programs, and only a fifth of institutions offer different forms of support for parents.
The authors conclude that systematic support for children and families at RSE in the Croatian ECEC system, has not yet fully taken root. The findings point to the need to improve the preventive capacities of the Croatian ECEC system, with an emphasis on expanding the offer of science-based programmes led by educated staff, which includes various forms of support for children at RSE and their family members.

Keywords: risk of social exclusion, early and preschool education and care, universal prevention, selective prevention, Croatia

About the authors

Dejana Bouillet holds a PhD in Social Pedagogy and is a full-time professor at the Faculty of Teacher Education, University of Zagreb, Croatia. She teaches inclusive and social pedagogy and researches a wide range of etiological, phenomenological and intervention aspects of socialization problems of children and youth. She has published more than 90 scientific and professional articles in different scientific journals and 15 books (bibliography: see Bouillet, Dejana).

Marina Panić is a research assistant at the Croatian Science Foundation project “Models of response to educational needs of children at risk of social exclusion in ECEC institutions”. Also, she is a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Teacher Education at the University of Zagreb where she participates in teaching inclusive pedagogy and inclusive curriculum. She is a PhD student at the University of Zadar. Her research interests are early and preschool pedagogy and inclusive pedagogy (bibliography: see

To Be or Not to Be a Great Educator, 2022. Proceedings of ATEE Annual Conference
Riga: University of Latvia Press, 2023. 985 p.
EdL. Daniela
ISBN 978-9934-36-019-0