2001 PIC: Building on the Foundation: What are the Next Steps for Early Childhood Education in Tuvalu? - A Review of Tuvalu’s National Early Childhood Care and Education Programme
Author: Guild, D.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, UNICEF began assistance in providing certificate level in-service training for pre-school teachers and in-country assistance to additional early childhood education activities. UNICEF, the University of the South Pacific, the Basic Education and Literacy Support (BELS) Programme, and The Canada Fund have provided assistance to the development of early childhood education in Tuvalu. Their assistance has resulted in teacher certification programmes, in-country training, pre-school buildings, a set of policy guidelines and a curriculum guide for early childhood education in the Pacific region available for adaptation and implementation, and the provision of basic materials and resources. These organizations, and others such as NZODA and UNESCO, also have funding available for the continued development of early childhood education.
Purpose / Objective
The responsibilities of the consultant included:
- In collaboration with the UNICEF Education Officer, conduct a national review of Tuvalu's early childhood education programme activities.
- Conduct a brief desk review on policy, curriculum, programme, teacher training, donor assistance etc. with the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, the Tuvalu Pre-School Council and other similar community-based organizations.
- Assess the quality of programme services/activities through field visits to selected pre-school centres in Funafuti and one or two outlying islands.
- Assess the needs of both rural and urban centres, formal and informal ECE sectors.
- Consult widely with the various sectors during the review period.
- Produce a consultancy report to cover, among other things, the tasks identified above and recommendations for future directions.
Visits to pre-schools and discussions with stakeholders, including parents, teachers, pre-school committee members, officers of the National Preschool Council and the Pre-school Teachers Association, members of the Vaitupu Island Kaupule, representatives of the donor community, and the Department of Education and Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture administrators.
The pre-schools were already closed for the holidays when the consultant arrived. This conflicted with information provided to UNICEF and the consultant, and meant that the consultant could only view pre-schools and not observe teachers and children in action.
Key Findings and Conclusions
The Tuvalu Country Report made the recommendation that early childhood education be brought under the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture. Even though the Government has taken positive steps to assume some responsibility for early childhood education, at this time, early childhood education is considered a non-government activity, under the auspices of the non-governmental organizations of the National Pre-school Council and the Pre-school Teachers Association. However, the National Pre-school Council has been inactive for a number of years.
There is currently no local curriculum guide for early childhood education in use in Tuvalu, either within the Ministry or by any of the teachers surveyed. Pre-school teachers have taken the initiative to develop their own curricula for their individual pre-school situations. However, this has led to inconsistency in curricula and programming. A curriculum guide has been provided by the BELS Programme, but has not yet been implemented.
There is anecdotal evidence that the development of local curricula is constrained by Tuvalu's limited institutional capacity and consequent restrictions on donor funding. An Early Childhood Education Advisory Board might act in an advisory capacity to help adapt and develop curriculum. This area would be greatly served by an early childhood education advisor to work directly with international partners and pre-school teachers.
Survey data indicate that the highest priority of training needs for pre-school teachers is in curriculum development and activities. 83% of the pre-school teachers in Tuvalu are unqualified. Eleven of the seventeen pre-schools (64%) have no qualified teachers. It appears that many of those who do obtain formal certification move into the primary education system. In addition, there is a high turnover of pre-school teachers in general.
According to interviews of teachers by the consultant, there is a lack of consistent, ongoing non-formal educational opportunities such as training workshops for pre-school teachers. This indicates that the current cohort of pre-school teachers have had very little or no training in early childhood education or in the associated areas of community leadership, parent education, and health and development.
The gross ratio of children to teachers varies from 6:1 on Niulakita to 23:1 on Nukufetau. For those pre-schools that do have qualified teachers, the ratio of children to qualified teacher varies from 17:1 at Funafuti Pre-school to 40:1 on Niutao.
The pre-schools need basic materials and resources, a curriculum guide, safe drinking water, and toilets.
Priority recommendations in this report include:
- A strategic planning exercise to identify the priorities and areas of development in early childhood education should be led by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture.
- A leading role in the coordination of donor agency assistance should be taken by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, in association with the Ministry of Finance.
- The regional early childhood education policy and curriculum guidelines should be adapted and implemented by the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture.
- An early childhood education advisor who can provide early childhood expertise should work with the Curriculum Officer and pre-school teachers from each island to adapt the Curriculum Guide and develop a programme of activities.
- An Early Childhood Education Advisory Board should be instituted.
- A consistent, ongoing programme of non-formal training and workshops for pre-school teachers in curriculum development and activities should be developed.
- The availability of water tanks and toilets for the use of teachers and children should be increased as soon as possible.
Full report in PDF
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