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Minister of Education and Youth, Maxine Henry Wilson, has said that Jamaica has made significant process in improving the quality of care and instruction provided by early childhood institutions.
Mrs. Henry Wilson, who was speaking at the Caribbean launch of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2007, recently at the Hilton Kingston, cited the establishment of the Early Childhood Commission as one effort by the government to improve the quality of education at the early childhood level.
“This Commission,” she said, “was established in 2003 to monitor, co-ordinate and oversee all early childhood institutions in Jamaica. This is in recognition that a child’s experience after birth, particularly in those critical first two years of life, sets the stage for just about every function of that child in adulthood and builds the foundation for achieving the child’s full potential in all areas.” According to the Education Minister, the Commission was in the process of streamlining early childhood programmes and services, and setting standards for all early childhood facilities nationally, whether private or public.
She noted further, that as part of the thrust to improve the quality of early childhood education, the government had piloted the registration of early childhood institutions, to ensure that these facilities met minimum standards in the areas of staff qualification and training, programmes for children, behaviour management, physical facilities, health, safety and nutrition.
“There is no register of early childhood institutions but we have actually piloted the registration process and we are in train to have a national registration done. This will then allow us to set the kind of baseline in terms of improvement in physical facilities and so on,” she explained.
The UNESCO report titled: ‘Strong Foundations,’ focuses on early childhood care and education and evaluates countries’ provisions of such services especially for vulnerable children.
The document presents a comparative country assessment of participation in pre-school education as well as financing for early childhood programmes, and assesses the progress of 125 countries towards achieving the Education for All goals by 2015, which include achieving universal primary education, equitable access to learning, improved adult literacy, the elimination of gender inequalities in education and improved quality of education.
Based on the report, the Caribbean and Latin America have made significant progress in improving the accessibility of education for its citizens. Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Netherland Antilles and Cuba, were ranked highly in terms of being close to achieving the goals, while St. Lucia, Jamaica, Bahamas and Dominican Republic were ranked in the middle.
Mrs. Henry Wilson expressed confidence that Jamaica would be able to meet the Education for All goals by 2015. She noted that 96 per cent of the nation’s children, between ages three and five, were registered in some type of early childhood education.
She however pointed to the need for financial and technical support from international development groups, to assist those countries that were falling behind.
“If these goals are to be achieved by 2015, there needs to be equal commitment on the part of international development partners to increase their financial and technical support to those countries that are lagging behind,” she stated.
Education for All, adopted at the World Education Forum held in Dakar in April 2000, aims to achieve six goals to provide quality basic education for all children, young people and adults by 2015. Each year, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report examines where the world stands on its commitments.