Influence of local ECEC policy on the quality of ECEC centers in the Netherlands

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We congratulate Inge de Wolf for her A+ publication on local governance in Early Childhood Education and Care in Early Childhood Research Quarterly


This study investigated the influence of local governance at the level of municipalities on the process quality of ECEC centers for 2- to 4-year-olds in the context of a privatized, marketized and decentralized ECEC system with both for-profit and not-for-profit providers. We studied the relation between local policy and ECEC-quality in a sample of 157 ECEC centers nested in 36 municipalities, with a total of 299 observations of process quality at two measurement waves. The results showed significant differences between municipalities in the observed emotional and behavioral support and engaged support for learning of the ECEC centers: 23% of the variance in emotional and behavioral support and 14% of the variance in engaged support for learning could be attributed to the municipal level. Contrary to our expectations, differences between municipalities in ECEC quality were not related to formal indicators of compliance with national legal requirements nor with formal indicators of coordination and quality assurance. However, exploratory analyses revealed that ‘soft’ horizontal governance of local networks of collaborating services was significantly associated with the engaged support for learning provided at ECEC centers. The local network governance measure included indicators of a mission-driven focus on reaching out to children and families with less financial resources, low educated parents or a migration background, collaboration of ECEC with other local social services to provide support for children and families with additional needs, and coordination of professional development and quality monitoring. Therefore, a more pronounced focus in ECEC policy on encouraging and monitoring local network governance is recommendable in hybrid, decentralized systems.

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