- The agency, established in 2003 under the Early Childhood Commission Act, is proud of its many achievements attained over the last 10 years.
- The ECC has developed the National Jamaica Early Childhood Curriculum, a one of a kind document, tailored specifically for the Jamaican environment.
- The ECC also implemented a Registration Information System, an automated facility used to track data on each institution.
The management of the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) remains resolute in their efforts to advance early childhood development in Jamaica.
This assurance comes from Acting Executive Director, Early Childhood Commission, Michelle Campbell, who tells JIS News that the ECC is working assiduously to support the Ministry of Education in its efforts to prioritize early childhood development, which forms part of the Government’s strategic priorities for the current fiscal year.
“We want our stakeholders, our parents, our practitioners, and our donors to know that the ECC is here to support them and is prepared to work with them for the development of early childhood services. We know that there are challenges and we will continue to work towards improving the sector,” she remarks.
Early Childhood Standards
Mrs. Campbell points out that the agency, established in 2003 under the Early Childhood Commission Act, is proud of its many achievements attained over the last 10 years.
Among the most significant of these, she shares, is the establishment of standards for the operation, management, and administration of early childhood institutions (ECI), the first such undertaking in Jamaica. The 12 standards guide the operation of all early childhood institutions across the island and outlines principles which operators of these are mandated to adhere to.
These standards manage: staffing; developmental and educational programmes; interactions and relationships with children; physical environment; health; nutrition; safety; child rights, protection and equality; interactions with parents and community members; administration; and finance.
Mrs. Campbell informs that all schools are provided with a copy of the Early Childhood Act and Regulations, as well as the 12 operating standards, upon registration with the ECC.
“This is very important for the daily functions of what best qualities should look like in an institution. These are also standards against which our Inspectorate goes out and monitors the institutions,” she says.
“We want to know what curriculum is being used. We want to make sure that the teachers use timetables that outline the activities for the day. We want to ensure that we look at the whole child and ensure that we have standards that the children are learning against, such as cognitive, physical, emotional, and spiritual developmental milestones,” Mrs. Campbell explains.
She notes that staffing is one of the most important elements of the standards, as it deals with the qualifications of teachers and support staff working at all early childhood institutions.
National Jamaica Early Childhood Curriculum
The ECC has also developed the National Jamaica Early Childhood Curriculum, a one of a kind document, tailored specifically for the Jamaican environment.
“The curriculum is very culturally sensitive to the dynamics of Jamaica and the people and history and spiritual side of Jamaica,” she says.
Mrs. Campbell relishes the accomplishment that “we have this document that all our more than 2,600 institutions are privy to and have the ability to use”.
“It caters to children zero to three and then four to five year olds and consists of the conceptual framework, which speaks to what the early childhood curriculum should look like at the institutional level, within all classrooms,” she further outlines.
The document also advises teachers and parents on what they can do to assist children in the learning and developmental process.
According to the Acting Executive Director, the early childhood curriculum also entails the scope and sequence in the birth to five year old category, which guides the learning process throughout each developmental stage.
“The aim is that a practitioner can use these tools when planning their lessons and their focus on the individual child is extended,” she says.
The ECC has also developed a resource guide that provides additional resources to teachers. “[The guide] looks at songs and games and other things that support the actual curriculum, which looks at themes for the various age groups in the institutions,” she outlines
Mrs. Campbell informs that all of the guides are available on the ECC’s website, which allows parents to log on and see how their children are progressing at the institutional level. This, she adds, will enable them to engage in conversation with teachers and further support the learning process at home.
Registration Information System (RIS)
The ECC has also implemented a Registration Information System (RIS), which is an automated facility used to track and collect data on each institution across the country.
“[With this system], we are able to give you information on each institution, the teaching staff, and their inspection report. We are also able to generate data, (which) we can provide… to the Ministry of Education and our other stakeholders,” she informs.
She notes that the RIS enables the ECC’s development officers and inspectors to efficiently collect information and data on each ECI across the island and to implement the necessary development strategies.
“These officers are assigned to various regions and zones and when they come across an institution that they haven’t seen before then they are able to get those schools to register with the Commission,” she says.
She further states that “this is all about quality services. We want to make sure that the children in our care are given the best possible start.”
There are currently some 2,660 early childhood institutions across the island with about 2,522 registered with the Commission. The number of those operating with permits now stands at 1,377.
National Strategic Plan
Another major accomplishment of the Commission is the development of the National Strategic Plan (NSP), which streamlines priorities for the sector over a five year period.
Mrs. Campbell informs that NSP 2008/2013, which officially ended on September 30 this year, catered to five internal processes namely: parenting; preventative health care; screening and early intervention for children and families at risk; high quality early childhood institutions; and trained early childhood practitioners.
“Under parenting, we had a huge accomplishment in the development of the parenting strategies and standards for families of children zero to six, as well as the establishment of the Parenting Sub-committee, which initiated the action towards the development of the National Parenting Policy,” she says.
The National Parenting Policy forms part of the Government’s initiative to support Jamaican parents by increasing their access to quality information and services.
In the meantime, Mrs. Campbell informs that the agency is pleased to have accomplished all 45 targets set under the old NSP, which was developed with funding support from the World Bank.
She further tells JIS News that the new NSP 2013/2018, which came on track on September 30, will maintain focus on the five internal processes of the former plan, and incorporate two new targets: finance and resource mobilization; and public education.
The Acting Executive Director notes that the finance and resource mobilisation aspect aims to develop and implement a sector resource advocacy and mobilisation strategy for increased public and private sector investment in early childhood development.
As regards public education, the ECC aims to increase public awareness to drive and foster increased support and involvement in early childhood development initiatives across the country.
Child Health and Development Passport
Implementation of the Child Health and Development Passport is also a noteworthy achievement of the ECC. The passport, which was officially launched in 2010, is deemed to have revolutionized Jamaica’s approach to the management of children’s overall development and wellbeing.
Mrs. Campbell says the document enables caregivers and policy makers to track the health and development of children from birth, in a comprehensive and holistic way.
“We are really excited, because this year is the first year that a cohort of children who would have had the passport for the past three years, would be entering institutions,” she informs.
She notes that the ECC continues to work with the Ministry of Health in conducting training in the use of the passport.
Infant and Young Child Nutrition Policy
Additionally, the Commission is awaiting Cabinet’s approval of the Infant and Young Child Nutrition Policy, which speaks to the nutrition of infants, toddlers and young children in Jamaica.
“We have also developed the Nutrition Support Strategy for children four to six years in terms of the development of a nutrition manual and recipe guide,” she informs.
The manual has been printed and distributed to all early childhood institutions and is aimed at guiding ECI operators on nutritious menus and local foods that they can be served to the children.
Screening and Intervention
Mrs. Campbell says screening and intervention has also been at the forefront of the ECC’s plans. She informs that some 30 per cent of children are reported to have psychological, social developmental or behavioural problems, and most are missed until they get to Grade One at the primary school level.
As such, she says prompt intervention is highly effective when it begins at the early childhood level. “What we’re doing is, we have developed assessment tools for families and children at risk and children at the age of four,” she informs.
She notes that the Commission is in the process of completing the pilot for the assessment tools and is planning to roll out the programme in 2014/15 academic year.
Mrs. Campbell says the aim is to screen all children coming into the early childhood sector, in an effort to provide the appropriate referrals to teachers. “Whether that be intervention in the classroom that the teacher can provide or a professional person or agency that can provide additional support,” she states.
“So by the time the children leave us at the early childhood level, they are well prepared for Grade One, and that teacher receiving that child at Grade One will know exactly what to do,” Mrs. Campbell adds.