Early Childhood Education
August 17, 2009 – 1:30 p.m.
|Presenters: ||Noor Abu Al-Ragheb, USAID Jordan |
Carmen Henriquez, USAID El Salvador
Linda Ulqini, Aga Khan Foundation USA
|Moderator: ||M. Shahidul Islam, USAID Bangladesh |
This session profiled three Missions working on access and quality in early childhood education: Bangladesh, El Salvador and Jordan. Linda Ulqini of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) discussed a range of AKF projects in the arena of early childhood education. Access is still very low in some cases and early childhood has been a lower priority than basic education; the project in Jordan has worked to maintain quality by keeping class size low – which also means there has been a long waitlist for inclusion, though the project has expanded every year. In El Salvador the public school option for early childhood has also expanded enormously, partnering with the Ministry of Education, the private sector and NGOs.
Regarding quality, programs have trained teachers and others, and helped to build capacity in the national MoEs so that gains are sustainable. Aga Khan’s interventions also include parents and community members in the development of materials, an important characteristic that garners community support for the program and ensures that teachers and students will relate to the materials. The program in Bangladesh has support circles for students just out of early childhood classes (first and second grades) and circles for older students (third through sixth grades) to provide an environment of academic support for students, not found elsewhere.
In Jordan, the program was found to have had a major impact on learning readiness. Research showed the benefits of early childhood education lasted through third grade. This research, part of USAID/Jordan’s program, is rare, and especially challenging given the need to assess precursor skills. An important part of the evaluation was the comprehensive tool used, measuring not just cognitive development but also social physical (fine and gross motor) plus literacy and numeracy. This is more costly than simply testing basic skills (like reading and math), and training for observers must be very in-depth. This testing focused on the whole child’s development. The discussion in this session noted that while ECD is more costly, the benefits are important. At the same time, the panelist from Bangladesh noted that a more academically-focused program he oversees actually had better results than another “holistic” program run by an NGO. Clearly this matter is open to debate.
Key take away points included a recommendation to maintain programs for more than eight years to reach a point of sustainability and impact. The participation of the private sector can also be important for leveraging funds and for political support. School feeding often makes programs more appealing in places where food shortages affect students’ health. Moreover, team building activities are a key factor for success in large, complex projects in order to build trust and empowerment. Finally, presenters shared the necessity of balance between local capacity and international technical assistance in order to strengthen and introduce new practices.
To view the presentations, please click on link below:
Aga Khan Foundation, Ulqini :
USAID Bangladesh, Islam :
USAID El Salvador, Henriquez :
USAID Jordan, Al-Ragheb :