In 2017, Taub Center researchers met with three ministry deputy director-generals and their staff in the Prime Minister’s office. One of the subjects under discussion was inequality and the way it is reflected in early childhood in Israel. In a follow-up meeting, the deputies asked researchers to expand on the subject of early childhood in Israel and it soon became apparent that there is not a great deal of research on the subject. The result of these meetings was the Taub Center decision to lead research and discussion in this field.
The Center joined with three foundations that focus on the field of early childhood — the Beracha Foundation, the Bernard van Leer Foundation, and Yan Hanadiv — and founded the Taub Center Initiative on Early Childhood Development and Inequality. A special team of researchers was recruited, and, in July 2019, the project began its work. Since the establishment of the Initiative, over ten papers have been published that focus on, among other things, the quality of early childhood education and care settings (ECEC) in Israel, the relationship between participation in such settings and future academic achievement, the impact of poverty in early childhood on later academic achievement, and parenting styles and young children’s exposure to screens.
One of the early significant challenges was locating important stakeholders in government ministries as well as policy makers at the political level with an interest in early childhood in order to bring them findings and to advance the discussion and work in this area.
At the first meeting with staff in the Directorate General of Labor (which had previously been under the responsibility of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs), the head of the Initiative, Prof. Yossi Shavit, said: “There is a problem of perception which does not see early childhood education and care as an educational means but rather as a mechanism put in place to allow parents to work.”
Research staff moved between government offices and various departments and presented research findings to those in the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, RAMA, and others. Over the years, contacts have expanded among a variety of government agencies and meetings have been held repeatedly to continue the dialogue. With time, requests began to come in from policy makers to present them with research findings from the start of the Initiative’s work.
Since the founding of the Initiative, Taub Center researchers have presented their findings to committees and government forums as well as in countless meetings with government agencies at the political and professional level as well as on the local and national level; with academic and independent researchers; with civil society organizations, foundations, and funds. The head of the Initiative, Prof. Yossi Shavit, has been invited to be a member in the expert panel assisting the Ministry of Education in developing a strategy to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic among children.
Following a meeting with him in February 2020, the former Minister of Education Rabbi Rafi Peretz said: “Early childhood is an important age for development. I am delighted with the meeting with the Taub Center. The research is an instrument for what needs to be implemented. I invite the Taub Center to present the developments on early childhood research, to be a work tool for the Ministry of Education.”
In October 2021, when a study by the Initiative was presented to the Knesset Special Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee Chair, MK Ali Salalha said: “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope that these things will get to where they need to be and we will make good use of them for the good of all.”
Taub Center data in the area of early childhood have become an integral part of materials presented to ministers, Knesset members, and senior officials in government offices. This is to encourage those who may not see early childhood as a priority to nonetheless use the data and their influence in the area.
In addition to the research published by the Taub Center on early childhood, there are additional materials collected for various target populations, among them videos, infographics, a podcast episode, and opinion columns.
- Click to see a short video on “Early childhood education is crucial to development. How can it be improved?”
- Click to see a short video on “Which young children benefit from supervised, subsidized early childhood education?”.
- Click to listen to the podcast episode on Early Childhood within the “Israel 2040” series (in Hebrew).
On the media front, the Initiative’s activities have garnered attention. Following research publications, Initiative researchers have been interviewed on radio and television and a variety of reports have been published about their findings in news outlets in Hebrew, English, Russian, and Arabic.
In July 2021, the first conference dedicated solely to the area of early childhood was held with the participation of key government figures and those from civil society organizations as well as professionals from the field. Conference sessions dealt with effectiveness and accessibility of early childhood education and care frameworks and their quality, with the assimilation and potential influence of the Supervision Daycare Law for daycare facilities for young children, and strategies to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The presentations sparked fascinating discussions. In July 2022, a second conference was held, “Dilemmas and Developments in Early Childhood Care in Israel.” The conference focused on the subject of poverty in early childhood – its effects on early childhood development and the severe shortage of manpower in the ECEC field. The conference also afforded a look into activities at the local level that bring hope for advancing the field of early childhood education and care.
Following the first conference, the Taub Center convened an online event with agents working in the field on the implementation of the Supervision Daycare Law. Representatives of the local authorities and owners of preschools participated. The meeting was attended by over 100 people and dealt with the preparations on the ground for changes in policy.
- Click to watch the 2021 Early Childhood Education Conference, “Early Childhood Education in Israel: To Corona and Back”.
- To watch the 2022 Early Childhood Education Conference, “Dilemmas and Developments in Early Childhood Care in Israel”.
An additional area of activity for the Initiative is the seminar on early childhood “Between Research and Policy.” The seminar is designed for those on the administrative level in public service and the third sector who deal with early childhood, for educators, and researchers. The seminar combines current theoretical knowledge with insights from those in the field and contributes to an interdisciplinary approach to early childhood. Two successful sessions of the seminar have been completed.
The decision by the 36th government to move responsibility for early childhood from the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs to the Ministry of Education has served to strengthen the position of Taub Center researchers as experts in the field. Since the decision, the Taub Center has increased its involvement in the process. Initiative researchers have been invited to present their findings to the management and evaluation staff in the Ministry of Education and have held a number of meetings with those in senior positions in the Ministry to discuss a variety of policy issues. Meeting participants have expressed a great deal of interest in the findings and declared that they will make use of them in their long-range planning process.
After nearly three years of research and activities, Initiative researchers are continuing with important studies and activities to widen their circle of influence and to advance cooperative work in the field.
The Initiative on Early Childhood Development and Inequality research team: Prof. Yossi Shavit, Head of the initiative; Dr. Yael Navon; Dr. Carmel Blank; Dr. Sarit Silverman; Dana Shay and Liora Bowers.