Daphne Halkias, Ph.D., Research Associate. Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, UC San Diego
Michael Fakinos, Ph.D., Democritus University of Thrace, Alexandroupolis, GREECE
Nicholas Harkiolakis, Ph.D., Hellenic American University, Athens, GREECE
Peggy Pelonis, MS, MFC, The American Community Schools, Athens, GREECE
Vicky Katsioloudes, MSW, Independent Researcher, Athens, GREECE
Abstract: Success in integrating the children of immigrants – the second generation – is of enormous consequence for economically advanced societies that have received millions of international migrants since the 1980s. Education systems play a crucial role in this process. Availability and access of culturally diverse and appropriate preschool education are important factors for supporting long-term integration of immigrant children in host societies. In most industrialized countries, preschool programs are aimed at low-income and minority groups, offering education to hone the cognitive, language, literacy, and numeric skills of preschoolers, thus giving them a strong start upon entering elementary school. While, the evaluation of such programs indicate that entry into such programs is an avenue to improve the integration of immigrant children, research indicates that the design of these programs is imperative to their success. Finally, although well-designed early education programs aim to reduce ethnic group-related inequalities in children’s cognitive skills and social competence, children in immigrant families are less likely to participate in these programs than are children in native-born families. This paper will investigate the above key points by outlining the development of a research project to assess the adequacy of preschool program design in Greece to support the successful integration of immigrant children. The investigators will develop the project to evaluate the program design of thirty preschool programs in two cities of Greece, Athens and Alexandroupolis to indicate: 1) program design to meet the developmental needs of preschool children with the aim of successful entry into elementary school, and 2) access and availability of the education and health services provided by the well-designed preschool programs to immigrant children and their parents. In conclusion, the authors will make recommendations for public policies to promote well-designed early education as a key social support factor in the successful integration of immigrant children in the host society.