2000 MDV: Baseline Survey Report: Early Childhood Care and Development
Author: Business and Financial Service Consulting Group
This base-line survey is an integral activity of the UNICEF’s Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Project in the Maldives. The goals of the ECCD Project are: help meet the survival, protection, and development needs of children 0-3 in an environment that is positive, respectful, stimulating and fun for children and their families; and to create a culture of media in which children are told that they are valued, see themselves reflected in a variety of media, are encouraged to express themselves and have these expressions valued from infancy onwards. To reach these goals, the ECCD Project would undertake an awareness raising program that targets caregivers (parents, grandparents, siblings and teachers).
Purpose / Objective
This UNICEF baseline survey is the first attempt to document child development knowledge (including gaps in knowledge), childcare practices and beliefs (including misconceptions) among Maldivian caregivers, focusing on parents, siblings and pre-school teachers. The survey findings set benchmark data against which the effectiveness of the ECCD project could be measured. Furthermore, the findings and recommendations are meant to support the planning and implementation of UNICEF's ECCD project.
The survey questions are:
1. What are the common child-rearing/child-care practices in the Maldives?
2. What beliefs form these child-rearing/child-care practices?
3. What knowledge do caregivers (parents, grandparents, siblings and pre-school teachers) hold about child development, including the potential capacity of infants and toddlers?
Two questionnaires were administered in small group settings to caregivers of infants and toddlers (0-5 years). One was for parents and teachers; the other for siblings. A total of 91 mothers, 70 fathers, 145 older siblings from the age of 13-15 and 33 pre-school teachers were sampled from seven regional island communities. Results are presented separately for respondents from the capital, Male, than those from the Atolls.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Over a quarter of the parents (33%) believe that baby could clearly see only after 3 months. 55% of the respondents in Male and 79% of those in the Atolls do not believe that a baby can hear at birth. 59% of the respondents in Male and 73% in the Atolls believe that a baby could think only after three months.
49.6% of the mothers who completed the questionnaire from Male and 47% from the Atolls said that they breast-fed their babies for the first six months.
Whereas 64% of the respondents in Male listed vaccinating as an important practice during a child's first year, only 17% of those in the Atolls included this as an essential item for the first year.
Routine activities that parents perform for their babies are feeding, cleaning, putting them to sleep and teaching. Very few mentioned play as a routine activity. The survey findings demonstrate that only about a quarter of the population may have an adequate understanding of the importance of play during childhood. A high percentage of parents said that they begin to read for children when they are one or two years old.
45% of respondents in Male felt that dark-skinned children are discriminated negatively in the treatment they receive from parents and caregivers compared to 24% in the Atolls. The attitude towards children with disabilities is generally very positive. Most perceive that these children need special care, love and attention. Most also believe that what parents and other caregivers could do with these children was not limited as a result of their disability. In contrast to what was thought to be the public perception, most parents do not believe the conduct of children under five has deteriorated over the past ten years. Parents also place the blame for children's misconduct on the way some parents deal with their children.
45% of the older siblings spend 1 to 2 hours daily with younger brothers and sisters. A quarter of the siblings surveyed reported spending over 5 hours a day. The quality of time spent seems either adequate or good. This remark is based on the result that 81% of siblings reported playing as the key activity they do with siblings. Furthermore, 42% said they involve themselves in teaching younger siblings.
In general, teachers and parents do not show a significant difference in their knowledge, beliefs and attitudes regarding child-rearing practices.
The ECCD project needs to place emphasis on raising awareness of what cognitive development is, how it occurs, and what types of early childhood experiences stimulate an infant's brain. Raising awareness of parents regarding how soon a baby can see, hear and think may enhance the quality of interaction between babies and their caretakers during the first few months. Awareness regarding the importance of breast feeding should be addressed in addition to the importance of immunizations.
This survey points to the need to include teachers as a target group in raising awareness of child-rearing practices. In particular, teachers need further information on the following:
- Why and how to begin teaching children
- The process of cognitive development in infants and toddlers
- Ways of teaching children with special needs
Full report in PDF
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