Over the past few years, the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector in Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, has undergone substantial expansion. The publication of an Orientation Framework in the Field of ECEC – funded by the Swiss UNESCO Commission – led to the establishment of a regional platform in which all institutional partners, associations and educational services regularly participate. The Ticino Childhood Project, known as TIPI, was launched in 2016 to focus attention on issues related to children’s transitions from early childhood care to Kindergarten and Primary School, and to encourage coordination and collaboration between families and childcare professionals. TIPI is funded in part by the Jacobs Foundation.
While a collaborative approach has received relatively little attention at the local level, it is crucial for ensuring high quality, continuity and ongoing family involvement, while also working to overcome the current fragmentation of knowledge and institutional responsibility. Such an approach promises to bring considerable improvement, since it addresses all of the relevant parties and creates links between the various organizers and providers in the ECEC sector.
Building a shared culture of child development
In one of its first results, the project has led to a strong sense of affiliation at the regional level. When the project was launched, increasing numbers of local authorities and associations expressed interest in participating, which showed that the project was indeed fulfilling a need. This has led to regional and intercantonal synergies. A formal partnership has also been established with the health and education sectors.
The professional development, in-team training and research activities that have taken place so far have made it possible to analyze and systematize practices in childcare facilities. Thus we now have a framework for working with providers to build a shared culture of child development, promote collaboration with families, and implement specific educational projects. All of this has the potential to produce further improvement.
Fostering a partnership between families and professionals
In addition, a program called TIPI Resilience, inspired by Italy’s Program for Preventing Institutionalization (PIPPI), has been launched to address the needs of vulnerable families with children under age 6. This intervention is designed to promote child development by fostering a partnership between families and professionals, tapping families’ internal and external resources, and gradually reducing the need for institutional support. To date, 12 coaches and 25 multidisciplinary teams have undergone training, and 10 families will be participating in the first trial, which is scheduled to begin in September 2017.
Coordination is a demanding task, and includes organizing and conducting network meetings as well as cultivating formal and informal contacts with numerous individuals and institutions. Such activities are essential for maintaining a high level of motivation and ensuring that progress achieved so far will continue, even after the project itself is finished.
We are gratified to note that the Swiss Commission for UNESCO has decided to act as a sponsor of the TIPI project. This has boosted enthusiasm and participation within the regional platform.