As early as the 1960s, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs and INGOs) in Nepal have been working to expand access to Early Childhood Development (ECD) activities and services as a key strategy for improving primary-school retention and performance. Today, ECD in Nepal consists primarily of center-based Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED), parenting orientation classes, awareness-raising campaigns, health services, and nutrition support for infants and young children that promotes physical and cognitive development. Nepal’s primary focus in scaling up ECD activities has been on centers. There are currently more than 29,089 ECD centers operating in Nepal (Ministry of Education [MOE] 2009). Overall, 66.2 percent of the population of 3- and 4-year-olds is enrolled in an ECD center—64.8 percent of girls and 67.5 percent of boys (MOE 2009).1 Nepal is ranked among the poorest countries in the world, with a Human Development Index rating of 144 out of 182 countries (United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] 2009). Nearly 20 percent of the population is under age 6, and half of these children fall within the age range of 3 to 6 years (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] 2008). The primary-school net enrollment rate is 94 percent. However, only 78 percent of children who start grade 1 will continue in school to reach grade 5 (MOE 2009).
UNICEF’s ECD Focus in Nepal
The UNICEF country office ECD Specialist, along with the Education Section Chief and Country Office Representative, works primarily with national government counterparts in the MOE, Department of Education (DOE), and partner INGOs and NGOs to advocate for and provide technical assistance for developing policies and plans for ECD services, as well as related training and other materials. The ECD Specialist also works within UNICEF to integrate ECD into other ongoing work in the other sections.
UNICEF’s ECD goals are stated succinctly in the current Country Programme Action Plan (CPAP) with Nepal: ―"The early childhood development project will provide support to expand the ECD system to marginalized communities. In the most marginalized communities in 15 districts, 80 percent of parents and guardians of children ages 3 to 5 years will receive orientation on ECD and on the importance of primary education. By 2010, there will be ECD centers in each of the category 3 and 4 VDC [Village Development Committee] settlements in disadvantaged groups’ VDCs in 15 DACAW [Decentralized Action for Children and Women] districts."3
Nepal’s ECD initiatives include center-based care and instruction, parenting orientation classes, awareness-raising campaigns, and health services for infants and young children that support physical and cognitive development. This section provides a snapshot of these services. The primary modality for provision of ECD services is center-based care and instruction for 3- and 4-year-old children.4
This report presents the results of a retrospective case study of policy and programmatic initiatives to promote ECD in Nepal, with an emphasis on those supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with the Government of Nepal. The evaluation team conducted the study as part of an evaluation of the UNICEF-Government of Netherlands (GoN) Cooperation Programme on ECD, 2008-2010. The Cooperation Programme on ECD emphasizes three strategic objectives: (1) capacity building, (2) knowledge generation and dissemination, and (3) mainstreaming ECD into policies and services for young children. In addition, the Cooperation Programme on ECD focuses on cross-cutting issues, such as use of a human rights based approach to planning and providing ECD services, as well as gender equity and outreach to the marginalized.
For the Nepal case study, in June 2010, the evaluation team conducted eight days of in-country data collection, including field visits to locations where ECD is implemented. Primary data sources included key informant interviews with UNICEF country office staff, officials from the ministries of education and health, and staff from key UNICEF partner organizations; focus group discussions with parents, ECD facilitators,2 local ECD stakeholders, and district and local government officials; and observations of ECD centers. The evaluation team employed two main qualitative evaluation methods in analyzing case study data: (1) thematic framing and (2) triangulation. The analysis is structured around the logical framework for ECD in Nepal and the questions, outcomes, and indicators specified in the case study matrix (Appendix A). Triangulation confirmed patterns and identified important discrepancies across data sources and respondents participating in interviews and focus groups.
1 These data are taken from official statistics. The quality and accuracy of this data is questionable, as noted in a recent study of Nepal’s ECD programme (MOE/UNICEF 2009).
2 ECD facilitators are the teachers/caregivers who staff ECD centers, which are essentially preschool classrooms.
3 The DACAW programme is the primary mechanism for UNICEF’s ECD work at district and local levels. DACAW is UNICEF’s framework of collaboration with communities and local and district government through which UNICEF’s Health, Education, Child Protection, Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programmes are implemented. Specifically, DACAW works to build the capacity of individuals and communities, especially women, to demand change; to build capacity among local service providers to meet the needs of the population; and to build the capacity of local government to plan, implement, and monitor programmes that support the interests of women and children. DACAW is currently operating in 23 districts throughout Nepal (UNICEF 2008b).
4 In Nepal, children begin the first grade at the age of 5.
The report presents the case study findings in nine areas. These findings are summarized below.
Alignment with National Goals and Priorities
Activities undertaken in Nepal as part of the Programme of Cooperation on ECD are well aligned with national goals and priorities. ECD became a formal part of national education policy in 2000, when Nepal adopted the goals and strategies of the Education for All (EFA) Dakar Framework for Action, which included the goal of ―expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education‖ (UNESCO 2000). The School Sector Reform Plan (SSRP), adopted in 2009, includes concrete steps toward mainstreaming ECD into the national education system; the SSRP specifies a target gross enrollment rate (GER) for ECD centers of 80 percent by 2015. UNICEF has also made significant investments in parent education consistent with the CPAP objective. CPAP seeks to increase the number of parents with specific knowledge of ECD messages. ECD activities carried out by Nepal with support from UNICEF focus heavily on capacity building for start-up and support to ECD centers, and are well aligned with the government’s goals for expansion of the ECD activities into new districts and Village Development Committees (VDCs).
Effectiveness: Increasing Access and Coverage
Access to ECD services has increased substantially in Nepal. ECD in Nepal has expanded rapidly in the past few years, from 5,023 centers in 2004 to 29,089 in 2009 (MOE/ UNICEF 2009). In 2007, only 33 percent of children entering grade 1 had any experience with ECD.
Access to ECD services in Nepal has increased for the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups. These groups include Dalits, the Hindu caste formerly known as ―untouchables,‖ and Janajati, which includes Hindu and non-Hindu ethnic groups. Data reported by the MOE for 2009-10 do not disaggregate GER for ECD by caste or social group.5 However, according to MOE data from 2006-07 and 2008-09, the proportion of Dalit and Janajati entrants to grade 1 who have some ECD experience increased substantially in this short time period (8.6 and 12.7 percent, respectively). Other groups experienced less growth (20.2 percent).
Nepal has not achieved ECD targets set in cooperation with UNICEF. These goals are to by the end of 2010 establish an ECD center and provide orientation to 80 percent of parents of young children in the most marginalized communities in 15 DACAW districts. According to the 2009 Annual Report, by the end of 2009, ―ECD centers were present in 63 percent of wards in the most disadvantaged VDCs in UNICEF-supported districts,‖ and 49 percent of parents in the most disadvantaged communities had received parenting orientation, compared with 39 percent in the previous year. There are several possible explanations for why targets have not yet been met. The case study team found no evidence that Nepal is targeting funding for ECD centers to the most disadvantaged VDCs, or evidence that funding is allocated in a way that prioritizes the meeting of UNICEF targets. Also, the availability of parenting orientation (PO) classes in the 15 DACAW districts is not sufficient to reach 80 percent of parents.
Effectiveness: Building Capacity for ECD
The Government of Nepal, with support from UNICEF, has taken a strategic approach to capacity building focused on addressing the needs of local service providers and officials. The Government of Nepal and its partners are engaging in a strategically appropriate ―mix‖ of capacity-building activities that contribute to a supportive environment for ECD in homes, communities, and the education system. Through its extensive work with communities and districts as part of the DACAW approach, UNICEF has gained an understanding of the needs and abilities of local officials and other stakeholders. The cooperation programme has strategically targeted capacity-building resources to teachers, head teachers, and district and VDC officials. The cooperation programme has also taken into account the importance of parent involvement in the creation and expansion of ECD services and has employed a participatory approach in raising parents’ awareness of ECD, creating demand for it, and building their capacity to provide the health and nutrition supports that make ECD most effective.
Nepal has implemented district-level ECD training, but not all stakeholders receive the training they need. Although the Government of Nepal and its partners recognize the importance of ECD orientation for head teachers, ECD management committees, and district and VDC officials, training to date has not been implemented consistently in all districts. Orientations are organized locally according to the initiative and interest of individuals in the community and thus do not occur in all districts for all relevant stakeholders. Systematic data about who is trained and the amount of training received and thus precise estimates of training coverage are not available. However, multiple facilitators and stakeholders interviewed noted that some facilitators receive only 8 or 12 days of the required 16-day basic training, and most had not received refresher training. Moreover, some facilitators had received no training, because turnover rates are so high that training cannot keep up with the intake of new facilitators. Uneven provision of training is likely related to the lack of monitoring of the training process and poor follow-through on the part of the local government and INGO and NGO partners responsible for managing and implementing ECD.
The impact of PO classes on parents’ behaviors is unclear. Although the classes appear to be successful in creating demand for ECD, they may not be reaching their full potential for improving parents’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices about caring for and stimulating their young children’s holistic development. The Center for Education Innovation and Development (CERID), with UNICEF support, conducted a baseline study of parents’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to ECD in five DACAW districts in 2008 to inform the parenting education curriculum. A follow-up survey planned for 2011 will measure changes. Meetings with parents in Tanahun and grandmothers in Parsa yielded very little evidence of behavior change related to child care practices. Informants in both districts recalled information related to immunizations and child feeding, but did not mention changes in children’s cognitive, social, or emotional development. Parents, however, did report that PO classes convinced them to send their children to ECD centers.
Effectiveness: Generating Knowledge for ECD
Data are not consistently collected and used for planning and managing ECD activities and services in Nepal. Nepal does not have accurate information about the total number of ECD centers that currently exist in the country; the breakdown of community-based, school-based, and privately run centers and pre-primary classes; or the exact geographic distribution of these centers.6 Systematic data are also not collected about other ECD activities being piloted on a smaller scale, including PO classes, facilitator training, awareness raising, stakeholder orientation, and ECD messages in the micronutrient-supplementation activities.
Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS) will be a vital tool to define and monitor quality of ECD services. The ELDS will not only allow Nepal to obtain a baseline for children’s status at the outset of ECD services but will also provide measures that can be used for monitoring of ECD centers and will form the basis for improved curricula and training materials for facilitators as well as parents. The challenge will be to ensure that the standards are turned into the necessary tools and that key groups are properly trained in their use.
There is little evidence on the effectiveness of ECD services in Nepal. Aside from a lack of basic information to describe and monitor the state of ECD services in Nepal, there is also a lack of data regarding the effectiveness of ECD services. CERID has conducted several qualitative studies about ECD’s positive influence on student retention in primary grades. A 2003 study conducted by Save the Children examined the impact of ECD services on children, families, and communities, combining administrative data from ECD centers and schools with qualitative data collected from parents, teachers, and other stakeholders (Save the Children 2003). This study found that children with ECD experience had higher rates of enrollment in grade 1, performed better in primary school, and attended more regularly. However, the study focused on a single district in Nepal, and the authors noted significant data-quality issues in school and other administrative records. Additionally, the study was designed in such a way that it is not possible to attribute differences in outcomes to exposure to ECD.
There appear to be no rigorously designed, nationally representative studies examining whether ECD services, as they are currently being provided, have succeeded in improving rates of dropout and repetition in grade 1 and later grades, or have achieved other important outcomes related to school performance, or cognitive and socioemotional development in the medium and long term.7 Similarly, no evaluations have been conducted of parenting education activities to determine whether participating parents behave differently with their children than parents who do not participate, or whether outcomes differ between their children. 8
Effectiveness: Mainstreaming ECD into National Policies and Plans
ECD is not yet integrated across sectors in Nepal. Considerable efforts to work toward integration of ECD have taken place and have involved Ministry of Local Development (MLD), MOE, National Planning Commission (NPC), and CA members. However, more work is needed in this area. ECD policy is implemented largely within the education sector in Nepal. The most current government policies on ECD, particularly the SSRP, are in the education sector. Other ministries may believe that ECD is primarily an education-sector issue and do not understand the importance of intersectoral coordination for reaching younger children and those without access to ECD centers and for affecting parenting behaviors that can support children’s growth and development.
The Government of Nepal has developed strong partnerships with UNICEF and others to support ECD policymaking and planning at all levels. MOE and DOE officials at the national level noted consistently that UNICEF had played an important role in keeping ECD on the national agenda and in pushing for more recognition and funding. Some respondents noted that UNICEF’s credibility and its professional capacity are extremely important factors in its work and gives it a high degree of influence with the government and other partner organizations. Respondents also consistently cited UNICEF’s ability to bring organizations together to discuss and collaborate on ECD policy development and implementation efforts.
ECD is not fully mainstreamed into all components of UNICEF’s country programme. Nearly all of UNICEF’s ECD activities fall under the education programme, which mirrors the concentration of Nepal’s ECD policy development and implementation in the education sector. Country Office (CO) staff indicated that efforts have been made to collaborate on ECD across sectors, such as monthly meetings for key staff from all sections and exchanges of annual work plans across sections for review and comment. However, in only a few instances has ECD been integrated into activities in other sections. Specific examples of this integration include the ECD Specialist’s work with the nutrition section to include messages about ECD in micronutrient-supplementation activities. Similarly, a page about children’s needs and risks throughout the development cycle was included in a resource kit on community mobilization for child protection (UNICEF 2010a). In addition, there are references to ―bad practices‖ in the parent-orientation materials. Aside from these examples, however, ECD has not truly been integrated into the activities of sections other than education.
Nepal has taken a critical step toward mainstreaming ECD into formal education through the passage of the recent SSRP, but the plan has limitations. Incorporation of ECD in the SSRP reflects significant progress toward mainstreaming ECD, however the plan has some limitations. First, although the EFA had established ECD as a priority for 3- and 4-year-old children, the SSRP limits its commitment to 4-year-olds. Second, the plan provides only enough funding to cover the one-time costs of establishing a new ECD facility (and only enough centers to cover the country’s 4-year-old children), the facilitator’s salary and training, and some basic materials.
Efficiency and Quality of ECD Services
The quality of ECD services provided varies from center to center. The site visit team visited a few centers and cannot generalize to all settings; however, the findings provide some insight into ECD issues in Nepal. All four of the ECD centers the team visited had a wide variety of interesting materials available to use as aids for play-based learning, including blocks, dolls, homemade storybooks, basic household items labeled with their Nepali names, charts of the seasons, and other educational materials on the walls. However, the case study team did not observe organized use of the materials in any of the classrooms visited. Interactions with the facilitators were brief and not very stimulating or responsive to children’s interests and developmental needs. On the other hand, one center had a facilitator who organized her classroom and activities very well, led an interactive story time with the class, and described for us creative games she had devised to teach children colors and numbers. Interviews with UNICEF staff and national and local stakeholders confirmed these observations about the variability of center quality. Nepal does not collect consistent data from monitoring visits to ECD centers. Therefore, no systematic information is available about the quality of ECD center-based services in Nepal.
Monitoring of ECD facilitator performance is insufficient. There are no standard procedures in place to monitor the quality of ECD services provided in Nepal. Although nearly every stakeholder—including district education offices, ECD management committees, village development committees and municipalities, education resource centers, school management committees, and I/NGOs— in a district monitors ECD centers, there are no standard monitoring tools and no formal mechanism for reporting monitoring findings to district-level education officers or any other body. Monitoring conducted by multiple stakeholders, without coordination and standardized monitoring and reporting tools, is not an efficient use of ECD resources.
Processes for Planning, Management, and Coordination
Intersectoral collaboration on ECD at the national level is minimal. The official inter-ministerial ECD coordination bodies, which sit within the NPC and MOE, have become inactive. The only functioning coordination body at this time is the interagency working group, which sits within the DOE. Representatives from MLD are invited to these meetings, but it is not clear whether other ministries are actively involved in this committee. The context for efforts to collaborate across sectors is a fragile state at a political impasse.
Interagency collaboration on ECD at district and local levels varies by district. The Strategy Paper on Early Childhood Development (MOE/UNESCO 2004) details guidelines for the management of ECD centers and other activities at district and local levels, including the formation and functioning of ECD management committees, the roles of VDC/municipality officials, the District Education Office and Resource Persons, and community members, INGOs and NGOs, and (community-based organizations) CBOs. These guidelines lay out general goals for collaboration between these groups to carry out the establishment, management, funding, and monitoring of school-based and community-based ECD centers.
Data collected through site visit interviews indicates that the effectiveness of collaboration between stakeholders varies substantially by district, and possibly by VDC/municipality as well. The school and local governance officials the case study team met in Tanahun district described a well-functioning and highly engaged network of local ECD stakeholders who had established clear roles and responsibilities, and who met regularly to coordinate ECD services among themselves. In Parsa, however, VDC and district officials were less engaged and informed about ECD in the district, and most of the work of managing, supporting, and monitoring ECD centers there was done by INGOs and NGOs. Because Nepal does not systematically collect ECD monitoring data, there are no national data sources that can be used to assess the effective of collaboration on ECD more broadly.
Results-based planning for ECD is limited in Nepal both within the government and the UNICEF country office. Ideally, any set of activities should be guided by a detailed results framework that elaborates on specific, measurable objectives and targets for outputs and outcomes expected for all activities. Outputs and outcomes should be measured using clearly defined, measurable indicators to track progress toward the objectives. The lack of activity-specific objective-setting and monitoring within the Government of Nepal-UNICEF programme of cooperation hampers the country’s ability to determine whether its investments have been properly targeted, its resources are being used as intended, and its activities are achieving the desired results. UNICEF monitors all objectives, but in the context of the Paris Declaration focuses primarily on monitoring impact rather than inputs and process. UNICEF uses the Education Management Information System (EMIS) data from MOE to align with other development programmes and facilitate joint monitoring of trends and results. Also within the context of the Paris Declaration, use of resources is jointly monitored through reports to GoN.
Current country programme monitoring and evaluation (M&E) focus only on outputs, not outcomes. The current MOE indicators on ECD provide information about outputs—the number of ECD centers and enrollment rates—that can be used to assess expansion. Data are not currently collected or reported regarding the effectiveness of ECD in improving educational, socioemotional, or health outcomes for young children in Nepal.
Incorporation of Human Rights Based Approach and Strategies to Improve Equity and Participation of the Disadvantaged and Marginalized
Nepal has emphasized the importance of extending ECD services to the most disadvantaged and marginalized populations. National policies and plans consistently emphasize the importance of increasing access to services for disadvantaged groups and reducing disparities in access to services and in related outcomes. The government has carried out a poverty-mapping exercise, in which it collected data on basic poverty and millennium development goals (MDG) indicators through qualitative data collection and community mapping, and then categorized VDCs according to the data provided. UNICEF has used poverty-mapping data to plan and target its support to the VDCs categorized as most in need.
Specific strategies and targets for reaching disadvantaged groups with ECD have not been fully developed. Despite the policy emphasis on extending services to disadvantaged groups and the availability of some education statistics disaggregated by social group (Dalit, Janajati, or other) no specific strategies have been adopted for tracking and targeting these groups, or the communities in which they live, with funds for ECD services. Funding allocated to ECD through the SSRP is provided to districts according to a quota system, by which the district may distribute funds to VDCs and municipalities at its discretion for the establishment of ECD centers in those areas. Although some districts may make efforts to target these funds toward VDCs/municipalities categorized as disadvantaged, others do not. In fact, some local stakeholders the case study team interviewed noted that funds for ECD are often allocated to the communities that are best organized to lobby for funding. Disadvantaged communities often lack the organization and sense of self-efficacy required to successfully mobilize successful lobbying efforts.
Additionally, equity in ECD enrollment is not monitored through basic statistics. As noted in previous sections of this report, official statistics do not report on net or gross ECD enrollment rates by social group. They report only on the proportion of enrolled children belonging to particular groups. This indicator provides little useful information about equity as it does not take into account the total population of 3- and 4-year-olds belonging to each group.9 The Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data reported (MOE/UNICEF 2009) show large disparities in ECD enrollment by wealth category. Because DHS is a household survey, the data can be used to categorize households into wealth quintiles. According to these data, 63 percent of children in the wealthiest quintile of families attend an ECD center, compared with 12 percent of children from families in the poorest quintile (Table IV.4). These DHS data do not provide information about disparities by social group (Dalit, Janajati, or other), but such data are captured to some extent in the disparities by wealth quintile. DHS data also show that enrollment in ECD centers is lower in mountain areas and in the Far West region.
Nepal does not identify children with disabilities as a distinct disadvantaged group in need of increased access in its ECD policy or activities. The case study team did not find evidence of outreach efforts to families with children with disabilities, PO training on disabilities, or training and orientation for stakeholders and facilitators. MOE Flash Reports contain indicators for the enrollment of children with disabilities in primary and lower secondary school (including students who are blind, deaf, or blind and deaf; students with speech difficulties; and students with physical and mental disabilities), but no such data are reported for ECD centers. According to UNICEF, insufficient attention to children with disabilities is an issue in multiple sectors, including healthy and primary education, and therefore not unique to ECD.
Gender equity in ECD enrollment has been achieved in most regions. In the mountain, hill, and Kathmandu Valley areas, GER for boys and girls in ECD have been roughly equal over the last four years (Table IV.5). There remains a slight gap between GER for boys and girls in the Terai: GER for girls is lower than for boys. This gap has widened since 2006.
UNICEF’s work at district and local levels is highly participatory and encourages grassroots involvement in all aspects of ECD services and management. All ECD activities at these levels are generally carried out through the DACAW mechanism, which is itself a mechanism for collaboration amongst community members, especially women, schools, community-based organizations, and VDC and district government officials.
Sustainability and Scale-Up of ECD Services and Initiatives
Insufficient allocation of resources for ECD at the national level threatens its sustainability. Based on case study team observations and review of studies and reports on ECD in Nepal, the team concludes that ECD lacks a secure ―home‖ in Nepal. MOE, which in practice oversees policy implementation, does not take full ownership of ECD and maintains that ECD is split not only across the MOE and MLD. Other local government bodies, community CBOs, and NGOs that help to sustain services are also involved. At the same time, MLD participation in ECD-coordinating bodies at the national level is minimal. Stronger mechanisms for collaboration between these groups at central as well as district and local levels are needed to ensure sustainability at scale over the long term. MOE has committed to ECD center services to 4-year-olds for the next seven years but a shift toward school-based centers and away from community-based centers is possible.
Local governance structures and collaboration among stakeholders require strengthening in some districts. The Government of Nepal is committed to decentralization–control of services by local government entities and their partners–as the means of providing education and health services throughout the country. However, local governance is still weak in many areas and lacks the capacity and political will necessary to provide high quality services in an equitable manner.
5 The net enrollment rate (NER) and GER were reported for Dalit, Janajati, and other groups in the 2006-2007 Flash Report but are left out of later reports. The 2008-2009 reports provide only the proportion of Dalit and Janajati students out of the total ECD enrollment. They do not provide information about the proportion of all eligible Dalit and Janajati children who are enrolled in ECD.
6 While most ECD stakeholders recognize community-based versus school-based ECD centers, MOE Flash Reports consider both of these types of centers to be ―community-based‖ and refer to private centers or classes as ―institutional.‖ Therefore, it is not possible to determine the proportion of ECD centers that are community-supported and community-managed versus those that are school-managed and funded by the DOE.
7 Rigorously designed research would examine outcomes at the child level, specifically comparing those who had ECD experience with appropriately matched comparison children who had not, and would control for potential confounding factors such as parents’ education level, socioeconomic status, and other circumstances.
8 CERID conducted a baseline survey of the Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) of Parents/Guardians on Early Childhood Development and Primary Education in Nepal, with followup planned in 2011. This survey will not provide rigorous evidence about whether parenting education programmes affect parent behavior and child outcomes, but it will provide some information about whether parenting knowledge, attitudes, and practices different before and after participation in a parenting education programme.
9 For example, assume that of 99 children enrolled in an ECD center, 33 are Dalit, 33 are Janajati, and 33 are from another group. Enrollment rates for these groups are not necessarily equal, because we do not know what proportion of the total Dalit or Janajati population is represented by those 33 children. If the Dalit population of 3-4-year-old children in the community is 1,000, while the Janajati population is 2,000, and the ―other‖ population is 500, then the enrollment rates for Dalit children would be 3.3%, while for Janajati children it would be 1.6% and for ―other‖ children, 6.6%--double the enrollment rate for Dalit children.
This section presents conclusions about progress that has been made and ongoing challenges faced by Nepal and its partners as they continue to develop ECD policy and support implementation and scale-up.
Alignment with National Goals and Priorities
ECD policies and activities are well aligned with national priorities. Lack of intersectoral policy implementation and functional collaboration mechanisms at the national level, however, limit Nepal’s ability to implement policies in a coordinated, holistic manner.
Increasing Access and Coverage
Access to ECD centers has increased substantially, including among the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups. Enrollment rates, however, vary by region and for children from families in different income groups.
Information about coverage results for PO classes that have been implemented in DACAW districts indicate that additional PO classes may be needed in each village to reach the target of 80 percent of parents.
Capacity Building for ECD
Resources for building ECD capacity are strategically targeted to subnational levels; more consistent implementation and increased access to coordinator training is needed to increase coverage.
Intensity of PO classes may not be sufficient to produce lasting changes in KAP. A planned follow-up KAP survey of parents will provide important information about the potential for PO classes to create lasting change when implemented at current levels of intensity.
Knowledge Generation for ECD
ECD planning and activities in Nepal can be enhanced by more complete data at national and subnational levels. Nepal faces a similar challenge in the education sector.
The ELDS and the ECD mapping exercise provide important opportunities to build a solid base of information for ongoing ECD policy development and implementation in Nepal.
Mainstreaming of ECD into National Policies and Plans
The Nepal-UNICEF cooperation programme has made some progress in mainstreaming ECD into the education and local development sectors; the education sector has incorporated 4-year-olds, and some efforts have been made to infuse ECD messages into nutritional and health services.
Efficiency and Quality of ECD
Use of common monitoring methodology and tools and coordination among monitors can improve efficiency and consistency in coverage of critical ECD elements.
More training or other mechanisms to support quality improvement in ECD centers are needed.
Processes for Planning, Management, and Coordination
National policies call for ownership of ECD implementation at district and local levels. Mainstreaming of ECD is limited in some districts by a lack of sufficient local capacity to implement ECD policies.
Incorporation of Human Rights-Based Approach and Strategies to Improve Equity
An effort to map locations of ECD centers is underway, but strategies are not yet in place to target construction of new ECD centers to communities with high proportions of children from marginalized and disadvantaged groups.
Sustainability and Scale-Up
Lack of strong intersectoral policy implementation and active coordination bodies at the national level could hamper sustainability.
Rapid scale-up of ECD centers has occurred, but more attention to quality and equity is needed.
Role of UNICEF-GoN Funding
The UNICEF-GoN Cooperation Programme funded two important ECD initiatives in Nepal—development of the ELDS and integration of ECD messages into a micronutrient supplementation initiatives—and jump started or enhanced previously planned ECD activities, particularly at district and local levels.
This section presents the following recommendations to enhance ECD policy development and implementation in Nepal. Recommendations for the Government of Nepal focus on intersectoral collaboration and implementation, and for UNICEF focus on advocacy and provision of technical support. [See full Recommendations table on page xx].
Lessons Learned (optional):
ECD policy development and implementation in Nepal has focused primarily on the education sector in the last two years since the SSRP was developed. Nepal’s experience thus far at both the national and subnational levels provides several important lessons learned that may be useful for other countries, particularly about the challenges and potential benefits of focusing the majority of ECD resources in one primary sector.
When countries develop ECD policy primarily in one sector, intersectoral collaboration becomes more challenging. Including policy mandates to implement ECD within policy documents for a single sector, such as the education sector in Nepal, creates challenges to engaging other sectors in supporting ECD. Staff in other sectors may not view ECD as their responsibility, they may not understand the importance of providing holistic ECD, and they may be reluctant to commit scarce resources when they are responsible for fulfilling other mandates. ECD is by definition intersectoral, and policy implementation and activities should reflect this intrinsic characteristic. For example, if an ECD specialist is placed within one section, other mechanisms such as joint planning and the formation of intersectoral working groups, are likely to be encouraged.
Mainstreaming ECD within a single sector may facilitate rapid scale-up. Clear systems and resource allocation plans can be established in a single sector for replicating specific services, such as ECD centers, in communities across the country. ECD can be introduced efficiently into already existing service delivery systems, such as the primary education system or home visiting or community education activities operating within health systems. As in Nepal, sectoral approaches can be efficient and where they work well should continue. Intersectoral collaboration is not an end in itself; it is a means for developing holistic ECD policies and services. However, intersectoral approaches offer one way to address unmet needs and can increase the frequency of conveying ECD messages to parents and communities.
Concentrating ECD policy in a single sector creates challenges for developing ECD the age span and for multiple settings, such as home and school. Few sectors offer services that span the ECD age range of birth to 5 years old. For example, health interventions often focus on supporting positive maternal health and birth outcomes, as well as on delivering basic health and nutrition services to children under age 3. For those services, interventions are most often delivered in the home environment or in gatherings that occur in the local community. Preschool education is most often delivered in centers to children ages 3 to 5. To provide holistic ECD across the age span and in multiple settings, intersectoral approaches are needed.
Rapid scale-up can lead to insufficient focus on quality and equity. Implementing ECD is a complex endeavor that requires action at both national and subnational levels. In addition to developing resource-allocation plans, establishing facilities, hiring and training staff, and recruiting families and children, systems must be developed to promote quality services and equitable access to them. Steps required to create these systems—including developing standards, indicators, and targets; collecting data to track indicators and monitor progress toward targets; and using data to make improvements—take time to develop and implement. Rapid scale-up can occur before critical support systems are fully in place, leading to uneven quality and access to services among disadvantaged populations.
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