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World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education

© UNESCO Moscow

27-29 September, 2010, Moscow

 

Now is the time to build the foundation for the wealth of Nations!

The first-ever world conference with the overall theme of early childhood care and education (ECCE) as the first and foundational step for building the wealth of nations, was celebrated in Moscow from 27 to 29 September, 2010. Co-organized by UNESCO and the Russian Federation, the event brought together 1000 participants, from 193 UNESCO member states (policymakers, researchers, professionals, representatives of intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations, bilateral and multilateral donor and United Nations agencies). Ten years after the Education for All (EFA) Framework for Action was adopted in Dakar, Senegal, the conference aimed to assess progress towards the first EFA goal of expanding and improving comprehensive ECCE, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. As noted, one important thrust of the WCECCE was to facilitate Member States to achieve an equitable, inclusive and broad-based development by increasing their attention to the benefits of investing in ECCE

At the opening, UNESCO’s Director-General, Ms. Irina Bokova stressed the importance of early childhood programmes in addressing inequalities, as it provides “a starting point for leveling the playing field.” “The number of children missing out primary school - 69 million - could be reduced if they were reached through adequate programmes before age 8. So could the number of children who drop out of school too early.”

Among such inequalities, those based on gender were discussed at the conference. A report on the Asia-Pacific region, presented by Mr. Gwang-Jo Kim, Director of UNESCO Bangkok, underlined that gender does not seem to affect the pre-primary participation overall rates in Asia and the Pacific, although gender disparity arises later in primary and secondary levels. This quantitative indicator nonetheless hides the qualitative aspect of gender equality in ECCE, as curriculum resources in the region are still gender-biased while teachers tend to give more attention to boys than to girls. This is why gender neutral curricula need to be developed and teachers sensitized to gender issues from this first stage of lifelong learning. Moreover, the report also warned of the worrying trend of the “missing girl” phenomenon in the under six population in countries where son preference is prevalent, such as in China, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh Nepal and Viet Nam.

The participants adopted the Moscow Framework of Action, which outlines a number of challenges that must be tackled to achieve ECCE goals, including a lack of political commitment, inadequate public funding, low external support and effective delivery of services.  Poverty and social barriers, including gender bias and discrimination, were also accounted for as denying access to quality ECCE for millions of children in the world.

To overcome these challenges, the Conference participants called upon the governments to mobilize stronger commitment to ECCE, reinforce effective ECCE programme delivery and harness resources for ECCE. Moreover, the Asia-Pacific regional commissions highlighted the importance of evidence-based advocacy and policy development, empowerment and capacity development of parents and families, as well as the co-ordination and public-private partnership for integrated, holistic and inclusive ECCE.

Overarching goals of the conference:

(1)    Global reaffirmation of ECCE as a right of all children and its development relevance

(2)    Stock-taking of the progress of Member states towards achieving the EFA Goal 1 on ECCE

(3)    Identification of binding constraints in making further progress toward making the intended access to quality ECCE services

(4)    Establishment of benchmarks and targets to work toward EFA Goal 1

(5)    Identification of key enablers facilitating Member States for reaching the established targets

(6)    Promotion of global exchange of good practices

Progress to Date

Recognizing the above outlined benefits, the past three decades have registered increased global and national efforts to equitably expand quality ECCE services. Worldwide, the number of children enrolled in pre-primary education has almost tripled during this time (UNESCO, 2006).

Globally there is an increasing awareness of the importance of early childhood. This recognition is evident in the first goal of the EFA which is to expand and improve comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, and in five of the MDG goals which relate to the health, nutrition and education of children.

There has also been a notable increase in early childhood provisions globally and more and more governments are developing policies and building systems to provide services for early childhood (UNESCO 2006; 2008).

Recommendations: 

Commission 2.2: Southeast Asia, East Asia, Central Asia and the Pacific

Key points:

1)      ‘ECCE for all, all for ECCE’.  For inter-sectoral co-ordination, there is no one size to fit all countries. There are different ways of ensuring coordination in implementing ECCE policies, and each mechanism has its advantages and disadvantages. Whatever modality is selected, it is important to have all stakeholders to sit down together and share responsibilities but without compartmentalizing the holistic nature of ECCE.

2)      Curriculum or programme contents need to consider the contextual relevance of children in the specific cultural setting (e.g., the importance on acquisition of moral values and possibilities of gender biases).

3)      Holistic ECCE includes support to parents and families, who are the primary carers and educators of their children.

Recommendations:

1)      Promote evidence-based approach, generate authentic knowledge on ECCE through research; use valid and appropriate localized data to speak with one voice and help advocate and promote ECCE to influence policies.

2)      Consider children’s needs and rights holistically whatever modality of inter-sectoral co-ordination for ECCE a country is to select.

3)      Given the vastness and diversity of the Asia-Pacific region, its sub-regions should come together to discuss common challenges, build on each other’s strengths, help one another and optimize available expertise in each sub-region.

4)      Use creative methods to engage for-profit and non-profit private sectors in ECCE, with governmental financial support (subsidies), to provide quality ECCE for all children, particularly those from vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

5)      Initiate and/or strengthen programs to support and educate parents to empower them as primary carers and educators of young children.

Panellists

Commission 2.6: South and West Asia

Key points:

1)      The region faces low ECCE coverage and low (varying) quality of services due to the weak/absence of comprehensive policy provision and operational framework.  Public provision alone cannot reach all children, thus partnership with civil society, including NGOs, private sector and international community, is imperative.

2)      To ensure equitable access to quality ECCE services, the region needs innovative approaches and models that are community-based and context-specific through strong collaboration between the government and civil society.

3)      Networking among key ECCE stakeholders facilitates a consultative and participatory process for policy formulation and programme interventions.

Recommendations:

1)      Seek innovative ways to strengthen sustainable public-private partnerships, establishing a clear division of roles and responsibilities, not to exclude any children.

2)      Empower and strengthen the capacity of families and service providers, so that they can provide quality care and education to the young child.

3)      Share, adapt and scale up good ECCE practices and innovative approaches according to national contexts.

4)      Develop national quality standards and set mechanisms to regulate the quality of ECCE services.

5)      Strengthen the knowledge base, through research and documentation of good practices, for evidence-based ECCE advocacy, planning and policy development.

Regional Report 

Framework for Action

Early childhood and maternal health and nutrition reinforces educational prospectsECCE improves attendance and performance at primary and beyond, Early intervention can reduce social inequalities and Investing in ECCE pays off.