Early Childhood in Times of Rapid Change

Societies across the globe are experiencing rapid changes which affect children, their families and the practitioners working alongside them. Living, as we do, in a more interconnected and interdependent world, the stability of economies and societies is impacted by factors beyond country borders; the effects of conflict, climate change and epidemics in once remote countries have repercussions in local communities.

Demographic changes and economic challenges around the globe are affecting governments’ abilities to provide quality public services to those who need them most. Rising inequalities are putting pressure on social cohesion, stability and the effectiveness of existing social security structures. Employment is less secure, requires more mobility, learning and flexibility, and affects family stability, while the costs of living rise more rapidly than wages. Decision makers in many countries face challenges of controlled immigration as well as challenges linked to an ageing population.

These profound shifts are accompanied by a technological and communications revolution which is intensely affecting the ways we interact, learn and deliver services. As it opens new opportunities for shared learning and for creating supportive networks, we are presented with the possibility to harness new approaches to learn together, promote social cohesion and reach the most vulnerable in society.

At a global level, the adoption of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals provides a convergent frame of action for addressing global issues, but also the opportunity to raise awareness of the need to implement high quality and equitable programs for all children in their earliest years and their families.

The ISSA Conference 2016 will explore what impact these changes are having on children, families and practitioners, and will investigate ways to adequately meet the needs of our youngest citizens. ISSA’s conference is a meeting point for practitioners, policy makers, researchers and representatives of civil society from across Europe, Central Asia and beyond. Through dialogue, discussion and interaction the conference will promote shared learning among participants and connect stakeholders in a dynamic learning community.


Rapid changes in society and our advanced knowledge of child development in the last decades have introduced new demands on how we promote and defend meaningful learning for children from early years to ten years of age in formal, non-formal and informal settings.

  • How do we define meaningful learning for children in the 21st century?
  • How do we ensure long lasting outcomes for a child’s holistic development by not simply focusing on school preparedness?
  • In a digitized world with easy access to information, how do we, from the earliest years, promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills which allow for the best use of the information?
  • How can learning ensure respect for diversity, inclusion and multi-culturalism while supporting more divergent and innovative thinking?
  • Is learning fun, exciting, playful and challenging at the same time? Do we listen enough to children on these matters?


The early childhood workforce is at the cutting edge of the social, economic, cultural and political environment which is impacting upon children and their families. Their profound understanding, professional preparedness and confidence in steering processes that are in the best interests of children and families are crucial.

  • How do we promote meaningful learning for and among practitioners to empower them to inspire learning in children and families?
  • How do we ensure that current and future early childhood practitioners are fully equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are needed in these times of rapid change?
  • What new approaches, tools and methods are available to enhance meaningful preparation of the workforce, and to what extent are cross-sectoral (peer and group) learning or online learning exploited to nurture reflection, mutual learning and support, collegiality and co-creation of professional knowledge?


Families and the family environment are central for young children’s development, learning and overall wellbeing. Families today are facing increasing challenges that put their capacity to provide children with the ability to thrive at risk.

  • How can we empower families to embrace and benefit from change, rather than feel helpless and disempowered?
  • How do we deal with changes in the traditional concepts of family and parenting? How do we approach and support single parent families, same sex parents, overworked/busy parents, adoptive parents and grandparents stepping in as parents?
  • How ready are we to meet the needs of parents or caregivers living in the extreme poverty, conflict zones and refugee camps?
  • How are the voices of families, parents and caregivers captured and respected and how to ensure that they have a say when it comes to decisions affecting their children?


Technological advances are changing all aspects of modern life faster than at any other time in human history. On a daily basis new tools and devices are developed which allow individuals to inform, learn, connect and entertain on a global level. While at risk of being overwhelmed by the velocity of these changes, we need to take advantage of what technology can offer. We can harness innovative learning opportunities for adults and children in order to overcome barriers and increase social cohesion.

  • How can cooperation, responsiveness and participation in the delivery of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) be supported by new technologies?
  • How do we harness the potential of new technologies to support learning, participation and improve social cohesion?
  • How can technologies help us reach the most marginalized children, families and communities and ensure that they have appropriate support?
  • How does ECEC remain cutting-edge while young children themselves increasingly develop high-tech skills?