ECC to Develop National Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Sector


The Early Childhood Commission (ECC) is to undertake the development of a National Strategic Plan (NSP) for the early childhood sector in Jamaica, over the next five years.
Chairman of the ECC, Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, has said that the initiative would be implemented utilizing a US$15 million loan facility provided by the World Bank.
Speaking at a media briefing held at the Ministry of Education on Wednesday (July 30), Professor Samms-Vaughan said the NSP’s primary goals would be the development of critical thinking, socially competent children, and parents who are informed, educated, involved and supportive in meeting the children’s early development needs.
She explained that work to this end would be pursued through five “internal processes.” These are: effective parenting education; effective preventive health for “birth” to six year olds; effective screening, diagnosis and intervention for children deemed at risk; safer learner-centred early childhood institutions; and effective curriculum delivery by trained practitioners.
“This is not going to be an easy task.we have 45 targets to be met for us to be successful at the end of the five years. So every year, we have nine targets that have to be met, and there are targets in every one of these areas that will allow us to meet our goals at the end of five years,” the Chairman outlined.
Noting that the plan was cross-sectoral, Professor Samms-Vaughan told journalists that the ECC would be responsible for half of the targets, with other government agencies, ministries and organizations partnering with the Commission on the remainder. These include: the Ministries of Finance and the Public Service, Health, and Labour and Social Security; the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), and HEART Trust/NTA.
“So, we have a cross sectoral plan where all of the country’s state agencies are working together and working in partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector,” explained.
The Chairman underscored the importance of the targets being met, pointing out that while the World Bank “gives us US$1 million start-up funds in the middle of every year, the majority of the loan funds that we will get is based on our meeting these targets.”
“Every time we meet a target, it is worth US$180,000. So every year, we have to be pacing ourselves and making sure that we meet the targets. It is what we would call a performance-based loan where, the money that we get is based on our performance,” Professor Samms-Vaughan said.
She pointed out that the Government currently spends US$69 million on early childhood development, which amounts to US$213 per child. She added that on implementation of the NSP, the unit cost would increase by US$46 per child.
“We have gained 22 per cent of these funds by the World Bank loan and we have another eight per cent that is going to come in from off-budget expenses, which is already within the government. For the rest of it, we are seeking private sector partnerships and international development partnerships,” she said.
She noted that responses have been forthcoming from organizations, such as the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF); the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), but stressed that, “there is always room for more.”
Professor Samms-Vaughan emphasised that several achievements are expected at the end of the five years. These include: full registration of a significant number, if not all, of the country’s early childhood institutions; highly trained teachers in institutions; each institution having at least one Level Three or Four diploma trained teacher; and programmes offering high quality parenting education and support services.

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