JIS News

The Government today (May 4), signed a US$559,000 grant agreement for Early Childhood education with the World Bank, under the Japanese government’s Policy and Human Resources Development (PHRD) Fund. The agreement was signed by Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies, who chaired the ceremony; Japanese Ambassador to Jamaica, Hiroshi Sakurai; and Director, Caribbean Country Management Unit, Latin America and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank, Caroline Anstey, at the Ministry in Kingston. In his address, the Japanese Ambassador said the agreement represented yet another initiative highlighting the combined partnerships between the governments and peoples of Japan and Jamaica toward progress and understanding.
He said education should be given special attention as investment in knowledge was the cure for unsafe communities, healthy countries and the increasing number of disadvantaged citizens. “The earlier we start to invest in knowledge, the sooner we are healed,” the Ambassador remarked, emphasizing that early childhood education was critical to nation building. The Ambassador expressed the hope that much effort would be placed on arriving at strategies for the development of the personnel within early childhood facilities, such as administrators and teachers, and not just on those who were responsible for regulation.
“It is necessary to build a strong regulatory framework for the early childhood education sector. However, we must ensure that the issues of knowledge, facility, and personnel be dealt with in parallel, otherwise the result will be frustration. I hope that this initiative will see equitable value for regulators and the regulated,” he said.
The PHRD Fund was established in 1990 as a partnership between the Government of Japan and the World Bank.
In her remarks, Chair of the Early Childhood Commission, Dr. Maureen Samms Vaughn, thanked the Bank for its support and commitment. She said the funds would be used to “provide us with the information that we need to ensure effective planning and efficient use of resources”.
Dr. Samms Vaughn assured that the information to be obtained would be comprehensive. “It will not only address areas of governance and policy, but it will also address issues at the classroom level. I am also pleased to report that it addresses health and our most vulnerable citizens, children with disabilities,” she said.
Miss Anstey commended the Jamaican government for its focus on early childhood education and thanked the government of Japan for its support for the project through the PHRD grant. “Early childhood education is crucial for inclusion, later school performance, for helping people lift themselves out of poverty and indeed for crime reduction,” she said. She informed that to date, 95 per cent of four to six year olds in the island were enrolled in school, but “we still have to focus very much on the cohort of one to three year olds, and in particular on the poorest members of the community and those with disabilities”.
The Director pointed out that the project would help to ensure that this cohort had proper access to facilities and quality education, which was the Early Childhood Commission’s focus. Areas for consideration under the early childhood programme include policy and governance; children at risk; parenting and public education; quality improvement in early childhood institutions; monitoring and evaluation; and training for early childhood practitioners.
The grant will provide technical assistance to put the essential building blocks in place to support an effective early childhood development programme.
Through a range of studies and surveys, the grant will inform the preparation of initiatives that could be supported through future investments. The recommendations from these surveys will form the basis for a future loan agreement with the World Bank, which is scheduled to begin in 2008.