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Regional commitment to early childhood education takes shape

© UNICEF Pacific

Fiji, 5 March 2012 – 13 Directors of Early Childhood Education Departments from the Pacific have come together in Fiji to develop a tangible action plan to deliver on the region’s commitment to advance early childhood care and education (ECCE). Agreed actions include development of national quality frameworks for ECCE and strong communication engagement with partners and caregivers at all levels.

The first meeting of the Pacific ECCE Council follows commitment expressed by all Pacific island Ministries of Education to prioritise and advance ECCE in the region. The importance of ensuring proper ECCE for every Pacific infant and child from conception to the age of 5 is a matter of meeting children’s rights and making a smart investment in theirs and the region’s future.

“Early childhood care and education involves parents, teachers and caregivers, interacting positively with children from the day they are conceived and throughout childhood. Especially during the first five years of a child’s life, this interaction stimulates the brain development of children and supports them to develop confidence and strong learning skills. This foundation can be further strengthened through educational systems that provide age appropriate learning opportunities for young children. Data from other parts of the world show that countries that invest in ECCE gain more engaged citizens, a stronger labour force and substantial economic returns that far outweighs the investment”, Jenny James, National ECE Coordinator Vanuatu, shared at the meeting.

Key actions agreed in the meeting include development of a quality framework for ECCE that can be easily adapted to Pacific island countries, and initiation of immediate action to build stronger partnerships for ECCE with Pacific communities, teachers, parents and caregivers.

Jenny James added: “We recognise that communities, teachers and parents are the best starting point for establishing strong partnerships for ECCE. After all, most parents and caregivers are already practicing nurturing care, and many decision makers and teachers are parents themselves. ECCE council members can add value to this by ensuring more and better communication promoting positive parenting practices that can advance ECCE. We are going to listen more carefully to Pacific parents who are already excelling as nurturing caregivers and promote their experiences widely.”

The first Pacific ECCE Council meeting ended on a high note with members committing to make ECCE a clear and publically visible priority. Currently national budgets for ECCE activities in the Pacific represent at most 1% of Education sector budgets. Pacific fathers, mothers, teachers and other caregivers can now expect that ECCE will become more prominent on national development agendas and that Ministries of Education and ECCE organisations will be reaching out to them as key partners in making ECCE a reality for every young child in the Pacific: As a first step by focusing on strengthening ECCE partnerships with communities and by increasing national ECCE budgets.

 

 
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