More opportunities for early learning
Better, wider scope for children’s right to development
Early childhood is the phase for most rapid development in human life. It is the period starting from birth to eight years of age.
The brain reaches half its mature weight by about six months and 90 per cent of its final weight by age eight. This window is critical for developing a child’s cognitive, emotional, social and physical potential.
Early experiences of a child are therefore key to a full and productive future, as they directly affect the way that the brain is ‘wired’.
In Bangladesh, parents have limited awareness and knowledge on child care and rearing. Most are unaware of the requirements for Early Childhood Development.
Early stimulation and learning is one of its founding components. Talking, reading, singing, solving puzzles, and playing with others have a decisive impact on children.
From birth to two years of age, children listen intently, respond to speech, imitate sounds, say their first meaningful words, imitate adult actions, develop friendships, solve problems and begin pretend play.
They enjoy learning new skills, learn language rapidly, develop longer attention spans and act more independently from age three to five.
Only 8.8 per cent of Bangladeshi children under-5 have three or more books at home
Only 13.4 per cent of children aged 3-5 years are attending early childhood education
43.5 per cent access early learning and school preparedness at proper institutions
But it is during this crucial stage that young children are deprived of proper care, mostly because their parents are at work. In Bangladesh, only 43.5 per cent children access early learning and school preparedness in institutional settings.
The majority of children are therefore deprived of opportunities to expand their language skills, learn cooperation by helping and sharing, and practice pre-writing and pre-reading skills before entering primary school.
Not only are children missing the learning opportunities provided through institutions such as pre-primary schools, they do not have stimulating environments at home. Only 8.8 per cent of Bangladeshi children under-5 have three or more books at home to explore, according to the 2013 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey. Only 13.4 per cent of children aged 3-5 years are attending Early Childhood Education.
Overall, there is a lack of child friendly learning spaces and materials for young children in Bangladesh.
Limited access and service provision provide challenge as huge disparities exist in geographical locations and where quality also is a major concern.
4,000 para centres in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are effective models for delivery of ECD services
UNICEF support was critical to the formulation of the government’s Early Childhood Care and Development policy.
UNICEF continues to support the policy and implement its principles by demonstrating successful models, providing technical facilitation and assistance in collaboration, networking and partnership.
UNICEF is putting major focus on creating a system of coordination between 16 government ministries so that quality ECD services are delivered equitably, also enabling costed plans to implement the Policy.
UNICEF interventions promote more kindergarten and ECD centres. The 4,000 para centres supported by UNICEF in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) provide an effective model for similar establishments in tea gardens, slums and Haor areas.
For different age-specific interventions for Early Stimulation and Learning, UNICEF will support the development of quality standards and guidelines.
UNICEF promotes shared responsibility for children’s overall development. To achieve this, a platform is being developed by the Government in collaboration with communities, NGOs and the private sector.
As a main strategy for more effective programming for Early Childhood Care and Development, UNICEF works to strengthen systems and structures by leveraging resources from all possible sources.
One of the important elements of the Early Childhood Care and Development programming will be to ensure that it is gender-responsive and addresses some of the barriers around damaging masculine and feminine ideals and expectations that persist in society.