The Media Initiative for Children: Using Early Years Programmes to Tackle Sectarianism and Racism

By Kevin Fearon and Eleanor Mearns.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Media Initiative for Children (MIFC) was developed by Early Years, the organisation for young children in Northern Ireland, and Pii, the Peace Initiatives Institute in the USA. This respecting difference programme is aimed at young children aged 3–6 and it combines cartoon messages around diversity with an early years programme. Together they aim to promote positive attitudes to physical, social and cultural differences amongst young children, practitioners and parents. The messages also address bullying behaviours.
The cartoons are set in a play park and feature characters young children can easily identify with. The messages in the cartoons are reinforced in the early years setting through the use of resources and interactive activities that prompt children to talk about their feelings and attitudes to the issues explored in the cartoons.
MIFC aims to: increase awareness of difference in Northern Ireland among children, parents and teachers; help young children to understand what it feels like to be excluded and encourage them to be more willing to include children who are different; encourage young children to demonstrate respect and include others who are different, rather than ridiculing, fighting or rejecting them; make respecting difference a very real experience for young children and something that can be shared with their families.
The training of practitioners to implement the programme is a vital component of this initiative. Through training, diversity is translated into practice as practitioners and teachers are helped maximise the potential of the MIFC resources.
The programme was recently subjected to a Randomised Controlled Trial across 74 settings in Northern Ireland and Ireland and was one of the largest of its kind ever carried out internationally. The final report showed robust evidence that the MIFC had a significant impact on young children’s attitudes to difference and on their socio-emotional development.

Keywords: Difference, Respect, Ethnicity, Sectarianism, Race, Bullying

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp.139-148. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 771.611KB).

Kevin Fearon

Kevin Fearon is the International Project Manager with Early Years—the organisation for young children in Northern Ireland. Kevin manages the International Network for Peace Building with Young Children, an EU funded project funded by the PEACE III programme. The project is led by Early Years and currently comprises 18 members from conflict affected regions throughout the world. The Network aims to develop an international programmatic tool that supports innovation in the field of peace building in early childhood care and education; a pilot Masters Programme in Early Years and Conflict that will provide practitioners with a more focused knowledge of how to work with young children in conflict; an advocacy model to support the early childhood sector in conflict. Kevin is also responsible for the management of the Media Initiative for Children Respecting Difference Programme–Early Years’ flagship programme on inclusion and diversity.

Eleanor Mearns

Eleanor Mearns has worked for Early Years—the organisation for young children in Northern Ireland for the past 21 years and is currently Senior Early Years Specialist for Inclusion. She is also part of Early Years International Division and has worked on developing pre-school provision in Eastern European Countries since 2003. Since 2004, Eleanor has led in the development of the Media Initiative for Children Respecting Difference Programme. This intervention programme targets children aged 3–6 years old and supports them in developing positive attitudes and behaviours towards those who are different to themselves. Eleanor has presented on the programme locally, nationally and internationally and is also a member of the International Network on Peace Building with Young Children.

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