JIS News

Jamaica’s National Strategic Plan (NSP) for Early Childhood Development (ECD), which sets out to improve the monitoring of child development, has been gaining international recognition and is being used as a model in other countries.
Now in its second year of implementation, the NSP is a 5-year plan which takes into consideration all areas of early childhood development, including international and local development partners and Government ministries and agencies. The plan is being developed by the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) with focus on the improvement of early childhood development in the country.
The aspect of the plan that has been drawing a lot of attention is the cross-sectoral approach, Chairman of the ECC, Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan tells JIS News, noting that it is being used “as a model, internationally, for the cross-sectoral approach to providing high quality early childhood development services.”
She notes that the NSP is cross-sectoral, because it has been recognised that all sectors are responsible for the care of young children and that the health, finance, social security and education sectors must all work together in this regard.
“It has been indentified that young children…need all the inputs coming in, in order to improve their outcomes. So the cross-sectoral approach is about bringing everybody together and working towards one goal. I don’t think we have perfected it….but I think we have made some great strides in the cross-sectoral approach, using the framework of the National Strategic Plan,” she says.
According to the World Bank’s ‘En breve’ publication, the Bank is leveraging its multi-sectoral experience in Jamaica to develop long-term and sustainable solutions for ECD projects.
“As of early 2009, a new Jamaica ECD operation is showing promise for multi-sectoral Bank operations,” the newsletter reads.
Professor Samms-Vaughan says this cross-sectoral approach also involves having targets that are disbursement linked. The ‘En breve’ explains that the World Bank is co-financing the implementation of the plan, using results-based disbursement, whereby funds are released upon the achievement of certain milestones in the ECD sectors.
“The World Bank loan…says each year you need to achieve this along with the strategic plan and when you achieve this then you get a certain amount of funds. We have 45 targets to be achieved over the five years, (that’s) nine targets every year,” Professor Samms-Vaughan expounds, pointing out that the plan also incorporates monitoring indicators that ensure the achievement of targets in later years.
She notes that it is the first time that this type of performance-based loan arrangement is being used by the World Bank.
According to a booklet on the NSP, the Government of Jamaica now spends approximately US$73 million per year on early childhood development. This includes money spent in the health sector, social services and the education sector. The new services provided by the NSP will add US$17 million per year to the cost over the next five years.
“The Government of Jamaica will pay a large portion of this from the national budget. However, a World Bank loan of US$15 million will pay for about one-fifth of the additional cost of the NSP. The Commission will be working with local and international donors to fund other aspects of the plan,” the booklet read.
The ‘En breve’ also points out that Jamaica’s design has several advantages over traditional project designs. It highlights two in particular. The first being that the Government’s cross-sectoral implementation arrangements – including the ECC governing the various sectors, the NSP, and the joint planning and review mechanisms among ministries of the disbursement-linked targets – “promise co-ordinated interventions and a holistic approach to child development.”
The other advantage, the newsletter reads, is that the results-based elements place emphasis on achieving outputs and outcomes, rather than processes and inputs (such as procurement), thereby channelling attention, resources and technical expertise from the Government of Jamaica and the Bank into improving services for children and their parents.
Professor Samms-Vaughan further points out that the NSP, is also based on firm evidence of the factors that must be addressed to improve the quality of life for young children, and follows the life cycle approach to development.
“The outcome (of the NSP) is two-fold…We want children to be critical thinkers, socially competent, healthy children ready for life…The other outcome are parents who are informed, educated, involved and supported in meeting their children’s needs,” she notes.
These outcomes, she says, are accomplished through five main NSP processes: effective parenting support and education; effective preventive health care; effective screening, diagnosis and intervention for families and children at risk; safe learner-centred, well maintained early childhood facilities; and effective curriculum delivery by trained practitioners.
Several achievements are expected at the end of the five-year life of the plan. 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 Level Four diploma trained teacher; and programmes offering high quality parenting education and support services.
The progress of the NSP was assessed at a mid-term review held at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston on Wednesday (May 19).
World Bank Special Representative to Jamaica, Dr. Badrul Haque, who participated in the function, said Jamaica is a world leader in ECD for its pioneering research and for the high levels of coverage already attained at the pre-school level.
He further noted that globally, very few countries have been able to design a comprehensive, multi-sectoral strategy for ECD as Jamaica has done, adding that, even rarer is to find a plan that is engineered financially to be results-based as is the case for Jamaica.
“Jamaica provides the road map for other countries in the region and beyond. It is a model for others because it demonstrates that indeed it is possible to have a multi-sectoral strategy and foster a strong bi-partisan support for a national strategic plan,” he said.
Mr. Haque added that countries as diverse as Columbia, Mexico and Bolivia are using Jamaica as a road map for how to align policies and co-ordinate investments, in order to increase the efficiency and impact of public financing of early childhood development.
Country Representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Robert Fuderich, said that the organisation’s support of the implementation of the National Strategic Plan remained unshaken and pledged continued support in the next phase of the plan.
Some of the achievements of the NSP, as at May, 2010, include the ECC approving a Standards and Accreditation System (consisting of tools and procedures) for early childhood parenting education and support programmes. This is a 2010/11 target that was achieved in 2009/10. Also, a curriculum and delivery model for child development therapy (CDT) has been developed.
Additionally, 35 per cent of Early Childhood Institutions (ECIs) have received a complete initial inspection; spatial analysis of Early Childhood Education (ECE) Services has been conducted; Level III (vocational) competency standards were developed; Ministry of Finance and the Public Service reports on ECD expenditures, financing and accountability arrangements for subsidies to ECIs were revised and approved; and Financial and Accountability arrangements for ECIs were designed and approved.
The design, development and implementation of a Management Information System (MIS) system was another accomplishment. This comprehensive database entails: a registration database; an ECI Human Resource Database; an Early Childhood Practitioner Training Database; a Database of Parenting Programmes and Services; a Repository of Research in ECD Sector-Catalogue Database; and an Updated Financial Accounting System.
International development partners such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and local development partners, the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund and the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) have also provided support for the implementation of the NSP.

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