• JIS News

    The World Bank has facilitated a Japanese grant to the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), to undertake studies and develop capacity in preparation for a World Bank loan to support the Early Childhood sector.
    As set out in a Ministry Paper tabled in the House of Representatives last week by the Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, the loan is performance-based with 45 disbursement targets over a five-year period and will co-finance 20 per cent of activities in a national strategic plan.
    The grant will aid the development of a new organisational structure for the ECC to facilitate the national strategic plan; public expenditure review for the early childhood sector; best practices in parenting for children from birth to three years; social assessment of the Impact of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) loan; economic assessment of the impact of the ECD loan; development of a monitoring and evaluation system for the EC Sector; development of a service delivery model for children from birth to three years; and examination of institutional arrangements for financial support for the government and not-for-profit sector.
    The ECC was established by the Early Childhood Commission Act (2003) as the umbrella organization with overall responsibility for policy development, standards and regulations for the sector. The Commission is the institutional body which pulls together, under one ministerial umbrella, all the services related to children under the age of eight.
    According to the Ministry Paper, it is expected that at the end of the five-year period of the World Bank loan, 30 per cent of early childhood parenting education and support programmes will offer high quality parenting education and support services; 30 per cent of health centres will offer high quality child services, including screening of children and households to identify those at risk and offer appropriate intervention services; regional health authorities will have at least one child development therapist per parish to address the needs of children with special needs; 25 per cent of early childhood institutions will be fully registered; 50 per cent of early childhood practitioners at levels II and III will be licensed and 50 per cent of early childhood practitioners receiving subsidies will be at Level II and above; 25 per cent of early childhood institutions (ECIs) with children aged three years and over will have at least one Level III or Level IV (Diploma trained) teacher; and annual monitoring of national child development status.
    However, to access the loan in financial year 2008/09, the Early Childhood Commission must demonstrate to the World Bank attainment of the following nine (first set out of a total of 45) targets: parenting education strategy for birth to three, developed and approved by ECC Board (attained); child health passport developed and approved by ECC Board; curriculum and delivery model for child development therapy programme developed and approved by ECC Board and curriculum agency (curriculum development commenced); the ECC is staffed with at least 35 trained inspectors (attained); 75 per cent of ECIs have submitted completed applications for registration; 35 per cent of ECIs have received an initial inspection; National Council on Technical Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) Level III competency standards developed and approved by NCTVET and ECC Board (attained); spatial analysis of ECI service provision.
    Three of the nine agreed targets have already been attained, and others are far advanced to enable full draw-down on the loan, the Ministry Paper said.
    As at April 2008, some 3,225 ECIs have been identified; 2,308 ECIs made contact with the ECC (72 per cent); 1,708 ECIs submitted an application (53 per cent); 1,322 applications were deemed incomplete and 390 applications were complete.
    Letters are now being sent out to institutions that have not applied and those with incomplete applications. The definition of a ‘complete application’ is set at a high standard. It includes completed visits by the Public Health and Fire Departments with approvals by both, and clean police records for all staff. Almost 400 ECIs, (one out of every four applicants) have met these stringent requirements.
    The main reasons for incomplete applications are missing police records, public health reports, food handlers’ permits and fire certificates, reflecting the pressure placed on government agencies by the new process. The agencies are working with the ECC to reduce the backlog. The importance of the process was highlighted by approximately one per cent of police records showing convictions.
    In the meantime, a curriculum will be developed for practitioners and children. In the case of the practitioners’ curriculum, the ECC, in collaboration with the NCTVET, has revised Levels I and II competency standards to include new developments, such as emotional intelligence, screening and early intervention, the new legal and regulatory framework (EC Act) and implementation of child rights. The ECC has also facilitated the development of Level II in Early Childhood Administration.
    The document also notes that in collaboration with the Dudley Grant Memorial Trust (DGMT), the curriculum for children three to five years has been developed and is currently undergoing review by educators. Also, for the first time, a curriculum for children zero to two years has been developed and is undergoing review. The curriculum is expected to be implemented in ECIs in September 2008.
    Plans and current activities of the Early Childhood Commission will enhance the development of the sector and ultimately lead to critically thinking, socially competent, healthy children ready for life, and parents who are informed, educated, involved and supported in meeting children’s early development needs.