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Early learning

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2008/Kiron
A teacher reads with her students in an early learning centre in Bandarban, Chittagong division.

Children who participate in an Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme are more likely to enroll and remain in primary school than those who do not have access to such activities. In Bangladesh, access to ECD programmes is limited due to a lack of relevant knowledge, awareness and infrastructural facilities. As a result, many children do not develop to their full potential and are not properly prepared for primary school by the age of six. This leads to low retention and learning outcomes in later years.

Mainstreaming of pre-primary education
In 2013, as a result of good piloting, quality practices and constant advocacy by UNICEF and other development partners, the Government of Bangladesh introduced one year of pre-primary education (PPE) for five year olds.

Comprehensive Early Childhood Care and Development policy
In 2013, following strong collaboration between UNICEF and the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWCA) the Government of Bangladesh approved the Comprehensive Early Childhood Care and Development policy. This policy paved the way for addressing the development of children from a holistic perspective that supports their educational, social and psychological development. The Ministry of Primary and Mass education (MOPME) has approved a preschool framework and also endorsed the development of PPE standards that will advance the delivery of a high quality, consistent school preparedness programme.

Early learning centres
UNICEF’s Early Learning for Development Project provides centre-based care and education to the most vulnerable children between the ages of four and six.

Since 2006, MOWCA, supported by UNICEF, have provide early learning and PPE services to 1.1 million children under the Early Learning for Child Development Project (ELCDP) in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, urban slums and other disadvantaged districts.  Teachers help children develop their linguistic, social and cognitive skills through:

  • story-telling;
  • singing;
  • indoor and outdoor games;
  • making toys from materials brought from home;
  • drawing;
  • show-and-tell;
  • question-and-answer sessions; and 
  • age appropriate early literacy and numeracy materials.

Education for teachers and parents
UNICEF has supported the training of one pre-school teacher for each early learning centre. Parents are encouraged to visit the centres where they can learn how to give age-appropriate interactive care to young children at home.

Working with primary schools
Early learning centres link with primary schools to provide transition support and encourage primary school enrolment. A study of graduates from UNICEF-supported centres showed that 94 per cent of children who attended pre-school in the Chittagong Hill Tracts later enrolled in primary school. There is a transition rate of 99 per cent in primary school.

Food and learning
In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, UNICEF worked with the United Nations World Food Programme to deliver micronutrient fortified biscuits to pre-school children attending the early learning centres. The mid-morning snacks motivate children to come to class. They also improve nutritional status and reduce short-term hunger, enhancing a child’s capacity to concentrate.

Early learning for all
UNICEF works with the Government at policy level, and through the public media, to ensure that early learning is recognized as an essential part of every child’s education.

When the early learning programme was launched in 2001, public awareness of early childhood development and opportunities for formal early learning were almost non-existent. The MOPME and UNICEF have developed and approved a pre-primary operational framework to establish preschool classes in all government primary schools by 2015.

UNICEF and the Government of Bangladesh are committed to the Education for All initiative – a global movement to meet the educational needs of all people. Goal one is to expand and improve early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable children. UNICEF is working with the Government and NGOs to develop a set of Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS) for children aged up to eight years through a rigorous validation process in Bangladesh.

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