The best start in life -how to reach the SDGs.

I have just completed a great MOOC! The online course was called “The Best Start in Life: Early Childhood Development for Sustainable Development” This is the newest course from the UN Sustainable Development Network’s Online Education Initiative – the SDG Academy.

Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Co-Director of the NYU Global TIES for Children Center, was the primary faculty member teaching the course; others were Prof. Catherine Tamis-LeMonda of NYU Steinhardt Applied Psychology, Jack Shonkoff, MD (Director, Harvard Center on the Developing Child) and Prof. Aisha Yousafzai (Harvard Chan School of Public Health).  Dr. Pia Britto, Chief of Early Childhood Development for UNICEF was featured in the last week’s final module.

Many people from all over the globe participated and the feedback was very positive.

 

The syllabus was comprehensive:

Hirokazu Yoshikawa and Jack Shonkoff

1.1       Early Childhood Development for Sustainable Development

1.2       The State of the World’s Children

1.3       How Brain Architecture Develops

1.4       The Impact of Adversity & Toxic Stress

1.5       Resilience & How to Foster It

 

 Child Development: Prenatal to Age 3

Catherine Tamis-LeMonda

2.1       Development in Culture & Context

2.2       Physical Development

2.3       Cognitive Development and Perception

2.4       Language Development

2.5       Social Development

2.6       Emotional Development &Temperament

 Child Development: Ages 3 to 8

Hirokazu Yoshikawa

3.1       Physical Development

3.2       Cognitive Development & Executive Function

3.3       Language

3.4       Socio-emotional Development

 Tour of ECD Sectors & Programs Part I

Aisha Yousafzai

4.1       Introduction to Multi-sector Aspects

4.2       Health Programs

4.3       Nutrition & Parenting Programs

 

Tour of ECD Sectors & Programs Part 2

Hirokazu Yoshikawa

5.1       Social Protection Programs

5.2       Early Care & Education Programs

5.3       Child Protection Programs

 

Communities & Conflict Situations

Hirokazu Yoshikawa

6.1       Uganda Case Study

6.2       Community Based Programs

6.3       Conflict & Migration

 

From Programs to Policies

Hirokazu Yoshikawa

Human Capital Summit: Investing in the Early Years for Growth and Productivity

 

Investing in the early years is one of the smartest investments a country can make to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality, and boost productivity later in life. Today, millions of young children are not reaching their full potential because of inadequate nutrition, lack of early stimulation and learning, and exposure to stress. Investments in the physical, mental, and emotional development of children — from before birth until they enter primary school – are critical for the future productivity of individuals and for the economic competitiveness of nations. Country leaders need to  make commitments to reduce chronic malnutrition in children and expand access to early childhood development services by 2020 to ensure that children everywhere can thrive.

Even this is too late -something can happen now, as a 5 year old child  is only 5 once, so 2020 is still too late.

It took just 5 months to establish a 12 week school readiness programme in 7 regions in Tanzania – developing a curriculum, writing and illustrating 12 story books, training 1000 volunteer Community Teaching Assistants, engaging communities and preparing more than 50,000 children to start primary school, where they could not access previously. In January 2016 a sample of children were assessed and achieved equally or more than children who had one year of pre-primary school and very much higher than those who had no access to pre-primary classes. They are now progressing well.

So why wait? We can make a start now!

School Readiness – a formula for equity?

After a slow start early childhood education is now picking up a pace, with more governments increasing their pre-school provision, through a mixture of state and private investment.

What is only recently being recognised is that there are still many children not being able to access pre-school provision through living too far from the school, living in poverty, being a girl whose domestic responsibilities prevent her from starting school at the correct age, and those who are not ready to start primary school because their mother tongue is not the language of instruction.

At primary level if the language of the learner is different from the teacher they are less likely to succeed and more likely to fall behind -the teacher may not be trained to work bilingually and may not have the patience or resources to differentiate their teaching for their diverse class.

What is also certain, those children living in disadvantaged families, including those living in poverty, will not receive the cognitive stimulation at home which will support their brain development. Once these children start some distance behind other children they are likely to fall behind their peers, may have to repeat grades and eventually drop out or be too old to continue due to the pressure of early marriage,for example, in the case of girls.

If we are to improve equity -what can we do to ensure that all children start formal schooling ready to learn in a context which can be rather intimidating to many young learners?

The formula has to be RC+RF+RS=RC , where R=Ready, C=Community,F=Family, S=School and C= children.

This approach is having benefits in Tanzania where the GoT/EQUIP-Tanzania initiative on School Readiness is being piloted.

dodomapuppets

Community Teaching Assistants presenting their teaching aids made from local materials

 

More news on this initiative coming quite soon.

 

 

 

Disadvantage at the Starting Gate: Early Childhood Education in Pakistan

Source: Disadvantage at the Starting Gate: Early Childhood Education in Pakistan

By Huma Zia Faran, Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), Pakistan.

ASER1The recent upsurge in research on the development of a child’s brain underscores the need for greater attention to early childhood care and education, especially in developing countries. Studies (Cunha et al., 2006, and Heckman et al., 2010) reveal how a child’s brain develops at a surprisingly rapid rate during the early years thereby laying foundations for lifelong development. Early childhood education helps level the playing field for disadvantaged children as they enter primary school, empowering them to be confident and successful in later education and employment.

The recently agreed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on education, that Pakistan has committed to, makes reference to the importance of early childhood education:

Goal 4.2: By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education

Being part of such global education commitments and following Article 25-A of Pakistan’s Constitution on the Right to Education, Pakistan included at least one compulsory year of early childhood education in its National Education Policy and developed a National Curriculum for Early Childhood Education (ECE). However, the ECE goals were farfetched. By the end of 2015, ASER Pakistan found that the proportion of children between 3-5 years who were out of school was 61% in rural areas and 42% in urban areas. In rural areas, 51% of early childhood provision is public, compared to 58% in urban areas.

Evidence from ASER shows that Pakistan faces a two-fold challenge – access to early childhood schooling and the long lasting effect it has on the learning abilities of a child.

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In Tanzania, the situation may be seen as similar in that many rural children do not have access to pre-primary education, may not be taught in their mother tongue when they reach primary school and this fact alone starts to explain the low achievement at grade 3 – so the effects are immediate and long lasting. More on this on other blog posts such as here.

Effective training approaches in Tanzania

Here in Tanzania we have just completed  a second workshop for national facilitators for the School Readiness Programme.

The core aspect of the training is that what we practice during the national training is exactly what we expect the Community Teaching Assistants to do in their classrooms, so there is little loss in quality as we pass through the cascade.

As you can see, we spend much of the time on the floor!

We spend time on the floor national facilitators2 national facilitators1

At National Level

 

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storytellingSnake

using masks in groupUsing pictures

During training for District facilitators (Regional level)

 

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cta Mpwapwa

Application by Community Teaching Assistants at village level.

Not only are the results noticeable within a couple of weeks but the feedback to facilitators enthuses them greatly and they can feel great pride that their work, at such a distance, can have such an impact on children directly, within a relatively short time. During their next training they are so motivated and are able to build their ‘vision’ of their impact on the next generation of Tanzanians. This professional vision develops into a true intrinsic motivation that really changes behaviour.

 

Peacebuilding through Early Childhood Education – UNICEF podcast

Having worked on peace education with adolescents I realise how important the early socialisation into peaceful ways of resolving/managing conflict are.

This has to work on a personal, family, group, community level before we can hope to move towards peaceful coexistence in the world.

Podcast: Peacebuilding through Early Childhood Education
UNICEF
Evidence shows that the early years of life are strong predictors for individual health and development, as well as cognitive and social-emotional development. In UNICEF’s latest podcast, they spoke with three experts about why integrating peace education into early childhood education has a positive long-term effect on peace. Kyle D. Pruett is a Professor of Child Psychiatry at Yale University, Michael Evans is the Founder and Executive Director of Full Court Peace – and Siobhan Fitzpatrick is Chief Executive of Early Years.

To listen to the podcast and make your comment, please click here.