Denmark: preschool integration plan

The newest integration plan intends to mix bilingual children in nurseries and daycares to counteract ethnic divisions The Danish government's latest integration plans are targeting the youngest of the young. Some 85 nurseries and daycares in the Copenhagen area will be receiving a letter on Friday containing plans for mixing 'white' and 'black' children in the municipality's childcare institutions.

The plan involved creating reserved 'language spots' for bilingual children in 64 institutions where 'ethnic' Danes are overrepresented, daily newspaper Politiken reported.

'It's not about an enforced quota, but a voluntary offer that will be able to ensure a better mixing of children. That will benefit all children, also ethnic Danes,' said Bo Asmus Kjeldsgaard, deputy major for youth affairs. The 'Diversity in Copenhagen's Daycares' is a part of the Socialist People's Party integration strategy, and has a budget of DKK 6.6m.

The 21 daycares that currently have an unusually high number of children with an ethnic background other than Danish are also receiving word that they must try to attract more Danish children to balance the scales. Those institutions will be receiving extra aid to develop a better attraction plan, which could include offering more outdoor and ecology based activities.

Saud Ali is the mother of three children attending the age-integrated Krible Krable daycare on Nørrebro. The majority of children enrolled at the institution have bilingual parents. It is on the list of institutions where the ratio of Danish to ethnic Danish children is relatively low. Ali thinks the new plan is a good one.

'It is a good idea because children learn more Danish [in a mixed institution] and they also learn about each other's cultures from the time they are little. Danish children, immigrant children - they are children regardless, and they need to be integrated,' said Ali.

But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the plan. Henriette Brockdorff, head of the union of social educators and club members, is worried that while the plan has good intentions, it could create unwanted vacancies.

'Earmarked spots allow for less flexibility, so there runs a risk of empty places which could leave institutions with an economic problem.'

'If this place should have an effect on integration, then it requires a more holistic approach, in relationships and networking, instead of just focussing on the individual children,' said Pauline Ansel Henry, of Copenhagen's Parent Network.

She says the plan needs to be developed more, and also across community borders.
'It would be best if children can attend daycare with children they can become good playmates with, both at home and at the institutions.'

Kjeldgaard maintained that the plan is a necessary step in integration and added that a few years ago immigrant families weren't using the day care facilities at all. 'We encouraged them to use the daycares and it worked. Now we need to counteract the ethnic polarization that happened as a result,' he said.

Source: Jyllands Posten (English)

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