In 2001, the Institute organized a trip to learn about France's Early Care and Education System. This trip was designed to enable participants to get an intensive look at the French preschool system, which has gained international attention for being both universal and of high quality. Site visits were made to both ecole maternelles (serving children 2 to 5) and creches (serving children from infancy to age 3) in a variety of neighborhoods, serving a full range of income levels and ethnicities. Although participation is voluntary, almost 100% of children in France have entered preschool by the age of three.
The trip was organized around the three themes of the February 2001 seminar: 1) the skills and curriculum content behind the programs; 2) staff training and qualifications; and 3) the impact of progams on poor and minority students. Participants met with researchers, representatives of the Ministry of Education, political leaders in Lille and Blois, teacher union representatives, parents, teachers, and teacher-trainees in teacher education schools.