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Solutions on Early Childhood Development in the Asia-Pacific region discussed

A Regional Conference on Early Childhood Development (ECD) was held in Singapore from 8-10 November 2011 to discuss the importance of early childhood learning experiences for children under age of 3 years; an age group often neglected in a region where the focus tends to be on pre-school and primary school years.


Over 300 participants from 28 different countries came together for this event, both local and international, including government officials, practitioners and experts.

The conference was organized by the Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)’s SEED Institute. The supporting core member organizations included UNICEF, UNESCO, Plan International, Open Society Foundation and Save the Children.

UNESCO’s report on Early Childhood Care and Education in the Asia-Pacific region (2010) showed that while policy development for children in early childhood has progressed, much still needs to be done to decrease under-five mortality rates, reduce malnutrition, increase access to services for children under 3, and establish national frameworks that are comprehensive and address the diverse needs of children from birth throughout early childhood.

The launch of the “Resource Package for 0-3” was a highlight in this conference. The package aims to equip policy makers, practitioners and parents with a range of information on ECD for the under 3 period. Also, a number of hands-on workshops to utilize resource materials, along with policy consultations on the post-2015 development and education agenda between experts and delegates, were conducted.

Commitments to step up advocacy on ECD especially for children under 3 years old were made by country delegates on the final day. These commitments varied due to different statutes of countries in developing national ECD policies.

One thing certain was the will to bring more attention to the rights of children below 3 years of age into the national agenda, promote public-private partnerships to make the ECD approach more effective and to generate financial resources, as well as to increase the participation of parents, families and communities when implementing programmes for children of that age.

Some countries like the People’s Republic of China, Pakistan, the Philippines and Mongolia called for the formation of national networks among different stakeholders working for young children.

Recent UNESCO publications that promote parenting education and support parents’ effective roles as caregivers and educators are available and can be downloaded from the UNESCO Bangkok website. These are part of the Community Learning Centre Equivalency Program and the Lifelong Learning to Reach the Unreached project supported by the Japanese Government and UNESCO Bangkok’s Parenting Education Programme, which aims to help improve the quality of parenting education offered at CLCs

The discussions and presentations during the conference drew conclusions such as the need to document noteworthy ECD practices, create culturally and contextually appropriate policies and programmes, develop an effective communication platform to share ECD knowledge and experiences and find effective ways to influence national policy and the global agenda on Early Childhood Development.

The Parenting Education Guidebook, divided into 9 booklets, aims to raise awareness of the importance of caregiver’s role and the Facilitator’s Handbook is a guide for those who conduct parenting education workshops. Both publications are currently being adapted to local contexts and translated into local languages in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, Samoa and Viet Nam.

By Jeffry Peguero, UNESCO Bangkok