Program overview

ISSA’s Annual Conference offers a unique platform to listen to the world’s leading early childhood experts, an opportunity to learn from your peers and to share the knowledge and experience which you have gained while working in the field. ISSA aims to unite the knowledge and practice of researchers, practitioners, policy makers, parents and NGOs from around the world to explore themes through insightful discussions and interactive sessions, while sharing their wisdom and solutions.

Stay tuned. The ISSA Conference 2020 schedule is coming soon.


#1 Pre-conference Workshop: Cities for the Youngest Residents - Practical Solutions for Nurturing Environments

(optional by registration - this workshop is free of charge)

Co-organizers: Bernard van Leer Foundation (the Netherlands) & ISSA (the Netherlands) Read more

#2 Pre-conference Workshop: Nurturing Care for Early Childhood Development in the 21st Century

(optional by registration - this workshop is free of charge)

Co-organizers: World Health Organization, UNICEF ECARO & ISSA (the Netherlands) Read more

#3 Pre-conference Workshop: Gender Equity in Parenting: Involving Fathers/Male Caregivers in Responsive Care-Giving

(optional by registration - this workshop is free of charge)

Co-organizers: Oak Foundation (Switzerland) & ISSA (the Netherlands) Read more

#4 Pre-conference Workshop: Early Childhood Services for Young Refugee Children

(optional by registration - this workshop is free of charge)

Organizer: SARDES (the Netherlands)
Location: Stadsgehoorzaal, Breezaal, Leiden Read more

#5 Pre-conference Workshop: The European Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care - a Lens for Reflecting Systemically on Quality at Local and National Level

(optional by registration - the fee is EUR 30, incl. VAT)

Co-organizers: Bureau Mutant, the European Quality Framework Expert Group (The Netherlands) & VBJK (Belgium) Read more

#6 Pre-conference Workshop: Video-feedback Intervention to promote Positive Parenting and Sensitive Discipline (VIPP-SD)

(optional by registration - the fee is 30 EUR, incl. VAT)

Organizer: Leiden University, Institute of Education and Child Studies (the Netherlands) Read more

#7 Pre-conference Workshop: From Hard to Reach Families to Easy to Reach Services

(optional by registration - the fee is EUR 15, incl. VAT)

Co-organizers: ICDI - International Childhood Development Initiatives, JES Rijnland & Centres of Children and Families (Gemeentelijke Gezondheidsdienst - GGD Leiden) (the Netherlands). Read more

#8 Pre-conference Workshop: No more Special Needs inside a Regular Curriculum but a Special Curriculum to Welcome Diversities

(optional by registration - the fee is EUR 30, incl. VAT)

Organizer: La Bottega di GeppettoInternational Research and Documentation Centre on Childhood Gloria Tognetti (Italy) Read more

#9 Pre-conference Workshop: Partnering with Young Children across Sectors - Beginning a Movement

(optional by registration - the fee is EUR 30, incl. VAT)

Organizer: Learning for Well-being Foundation (the Netherlands | Belgium) Read more

Registration and Information Desk open
Welcome Reception and Celebration of ISSA’s 20th Anniversary and the 25th Anniversary of the SbS Program

Location: Stadsgehoorzaal, Breezaal
Address: Breestraat 60, 2311 CS, Leiden

Conference participants will be welcomed by ISSA and high-level speakers. Attendance at the welcome Reception is included in the conference registration fee. During the reception, drinks and finger food will be served. The reception and celebration will also feature entertainment from the Brussels Balkan Orchestra.


  • Liana Ghent, Executive Director, ISSA
  • Mayor Henri Lenferink, City of Leiden
  • Prof. Kristiaan van der Heijden, Faculty Board, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Leiden University
  • Lieve De Bosscher, Director, Childcare Services, City of Ghent




Registration and Information Desk open
Opening Ceremony


  • Liana Ghent, Executive Director, ISSA
  • Cornelia Cincilei, Member of the ISSA Board
  • Alderman Marleen Damen, City of Leiden
  • Alderman Paul Dirkse, City of Leiden
  • H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands [Bio]


Keynote Speaker: Paul Leseman

Keynote Speech: Value-based regulation of early childhood education and care for equity and inclusiveness

The early childhood education and care (ECEC) field across the world has undergone many changes in the past decades, with partly promising but partly also threatening developments. There is definitively a trend towards more unification and integration, and also the availability and accessibility of ECEC have increased substantially in many countries, at least for the 3- to 6-year-olds. These developments reflect the increasing awareness that high quality ECEC can contribute importantly to tackling pertinent societal issues such as educational inequality and social exclusion. At the same time countries are struggling with the governance and funding of ECEC. Increased privatization and marketization have contributed to the expansion of ECEC provision and have led to increased access for all children, but major challenges remain regarding the quality and inclusiveness of ECEC and related support services. Especially the inclusion of children from migrant and ethnic minority communities is an urgent, still unresolved issue, calling for policies that can eliminate financial and cultural barriers. Most countries nowadays have hybrid ECEC systems, with public and private organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, operating in a partly harmonized market. Whereas governance and harmonization strategies still predominantly focus on regulation of costs-related structural quality characteristics, evidence suggests that value-based governance, giving statutory prominence to children’s rights and to the principles of equity and (cultural) inclusiveness, together with decentralization of responsibilities to the local level holds the best promise for reaching out to all children while maintaining high quality.

Introduced by Jeroen Aarssen, Member of the ISSA Board

Read more about Paul Leseman.

Transition Break
Concurrent Session 1
Coffee Break
Concurrent Session 2
Lunch Break
Panel Discussion: Early Childhood Matters

Early Childhood Matters!

The world is waking up to the needs of young children and families. Early childhood has become a global movement. Early Childhood Matters is the annual publication of the Bernard van leer Foundation which highlights leadership, innovation, scaling and timely reports affecting young children and families around the world. This panel, which celebrates the launch of the 2019 edition, includes an overview of the issue, and highlights through their authors three articles focusing on innovative outreach to fathers, integration of youth in early childhood programming and special initiatives to scale early childhood in the Kyrgz republic. 

Moderator: Joan Lombardi – Director at Early Opportunities LLC [Bio]


  • Kristina Vlahovicova - Research Officer at Promundo-US, Washington DC, USA [Bio]
  • Rebecka Lungdren - Deputy Director, Director of Research, Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA  [Bio]
  • Burulai Aitikulova - Early Childhood Development and Education Lead, Aga Khan Foundation, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic  [Bio]
  • Emily Franchett - Project Coordinator LEAPS, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston MA, USA [Bio]


Transition Break
Concurrent Session 3
Coffee Break
Concurrent Session 4
Leiden Boat tour

(optional by registration)

Leiden Walking tours

(optional by registration)

Conference Dinner

19:30 - 22:30 - Conference Dinner (optional by registration)

Leiden City Hall, Stadhuisplein 1, 2311 EJ Leiden


Registration and Information Desk open
Concurrent Session 5
Transition Break
Keynote Speaker: Michael Feigelson

Keynote Speech: If you could experience the city from 95cm, what would you change? 

The keynote explores an initiative of the Bernard van Leer Foundation called Urban95, which is working with city leaders around the world to implement reforms focused on babies, toddlers and the people who take care of them every day. The focus will be on the challenges and the importance of going beyond the traditional realm of service delivery and working with new stakeholders such as city planners, architects, engineers and transportation officials.

Introduced by Mihaela Ionescu, Program Director, ISSA

Read more about Michael Feigelson.

Coffee Break
Concurrent Session 6
Lunch Break
Concurrent Session 7
Transition Break
Concurrent Session 8
Coffee Break
Keynote Speaker: Sarah Klaus

20/20 Vision:  The Early Childhood Development Field in Focus. 
Assessing the Past and Anticipating the Future

The year 2019 marks the 20th Anniversary of the International Step by Step Association (ISSA), as well as the 25th Anniversary of the Step by Step Program, the flagship early childhood education program of the Open Society Foundations that inspired ISSA’s establishment. Anniversaries challenge us both to look backwards at where we have come from and to look forwards to anticipate the future.  Using the theme of ‘nurturing’ as a framework, this keynote will explore what motivated the emergence of early childhood as a global endeavour and how it is evolving.  Together we’ll make predictions about what will shape the field in the next 20 years.  It will challenge all of us to answer the question:  where am I in this movement, and what role do I want to play in its future.

Introduced by Liana Ghent, Executive Director, ISSA

Read more about Sarah Klaus.

Closing Ceremony


  • Henriette Heimgaertner, Member of the ISSA Board 
  • Mihaela Ionescu, Program Director, ISSA
  • Liana Ghent, Executive Director, ISSA 


Leiden Boat tour

(optional by registration)

Leiden Walking Tours

(optional by registration)

Dinner out in Leiden

(optional by registration)

Site Visits

(optional by registration) Site Visits give participants insight into Leiden's diverse childcare services, such as playgroups, childcare centers and parental facilities. You can find the Site Visit Program HERE

Meeting of ECDAN’s Executive Group (by invitation only)
Leiden Boat tour

(optional by registration)

Leiden Walking tour

(optional by registration)

Leiden Boat tour

(optional by registration)

Leiden Walking tours

(optional by registration)

News on the Keynote Speakers will follow soon!