Strategic Choices for Education Reforms

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1 World Bank Institute/UNICEF Strategic Choices for Education Reforms Early Childhood Development in Five South Asian Countries Paper presented as course work by Deepa Das, India Hassan Mohamed, Bangladesh Muhammad Tariq Saeed, Pakistan Purushottam Acharya, Nepal Ruby Noble, Bhutan Sanaullah Panezai, Pakistan Sucheta Jasraj, India World Bank Institute Washington DC July

2 Early Childhood Development in Five South Asian Countries I Introduction This paper covers five of the seven nations in the South Asian region, viz., Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It examines the status of early childhood development (ECD) particularly the school readiness aspects and proposes strategies for strengthening them in terms of access, quality and implementation. UNICEF focuses on fulfilling children s rights as per the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It views and advocates for education as a right. It uses education to support results in health, nutrition and protection for realization of other rights. Following the life cycle approach, the operational scope of UNICEF programmes includes children and adolescents from 0 to 18 years. However, this paper focuses on the 0 6 yrs 1 segment reached through multi-sectoral early childhood care and development that include messages and supplies for child care, parenting education, pre-schools, and Child-to-Child school initiatives promoting good practices. According to the State of the World s Children Report (2001), Early Childhood Development (ECD) and School Readiness, refer to a comprehensive approach to policies and programs for children from birth to eight years of age, their parents and caregivers. Its purpose is to protect the child s rights to develop his or her full cognitive, emotional, social and physical potential. ECD also includes community-based services that meet the needs of infants and young children. These services should ideally include attention to health, nutrition, education and water, environmental sanitation in homes and communities. The ECD approach thus promotes and protects the rights of the young child to survival, growth and development. 2 Investments in early child development provides greater returns that, through improved cognitive and social-emotional development, school readiness, health and nutritional status, include increased enrollment, retention, achievement and completion of primary school (MDG2 and 3, EFA goals); improved parenting and awareness of a child s growth and development can improve feeding and caring practices resulting in less under nutrition (MDG1) Improved parenting can contribute to reduced child mortality (MDG4), since 40% of child deaths can be attributed to practices in the home. Child injuries, an important contributing factor to child death, can be reduced by raising awareness of causes of accidents in young children among the caregivers and the community leaders through parenting programmes and community based ECD programmes. Child to child programmes and teaching older children about safety for young children can also help to create safer environments for children. However, there is an evidence of low coverage and quality of the ECD and school readiness programmes in the concerned SA countries. In 2006, the combined total population of the concerned five countries was estimated close to 1.5 billion of which 11% were children of the 0-5 age group. 1 Note: In Bhutan a child can enter pre-school upon completing 6 years. 2 State of the World s Children Report, UNICEF,

3 Table 1: Country wise Population 0-5 Years. 3 Countries Total population 0-5 age population % Bangladesh 155,991,000 18,951, Bhutan 635,000 63, India 1,151,751, ,843, Nepal 27,641,000 3,626, Pakistan 160,943,000 19,012, Total 1,496,961, ,495, Child survival indicators are still low. On average infant mortality rate is 55 children per 1000 live births; 72 children out of 1000 die before reaching age 5, and 43% of under five children are under-weight or malnourished. Figure 1. Regional Indicators for Children 0-5 Years Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal Pakistan IMR U5MR U5 Underweight School readiness programs target, in most cases, 3-6 age group and are designed to provide all necessary care and education of children for their development through physical, cognitive, linguistic, social and emotional growth. On an average only 26% of the preprimary age children in the region have access to Pre-primary Gross Enrolment Ratio (2005) school readiness programs. GERs 4 for the five 60 concerned countries range from 1.5% in Bhutan to 52.5% in Pakistan, 38.8% in 50 India, 27% Nepal and 10.3% in 40 Bangladesh. Gender disparity is high in Pakistan followed by Nepal while 30 there is not much difference in the other three countries. 20 GER 10 0 Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal Pakistan Country Boys Girls Total 3 Source: ROSA, UNICEF Statistics booklet Source: UNICEF Child Info 2005, (http://www.childinfo.org/education_493 3

4 Given this situation, SWOT analysis was used to explore the various dimensions of the state of ECD and school readiness in the five South Asian countries. SWOT analysis revealed good level of commitment by governments to address ECD and school readiness as expressed in the National Plans of Action for EFA, MDGs, PRSPs, and CRCs as the major strengths. Opportunities include existence of regional and global support and knowledge base such as UNICEF s commitment to development of Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS) and child-to-child initiatives. In addition, the recently established Asia Regional Network for Early Child (ARNEC) has the potential to contribute and enrich knowledge base and expertise on ECD. On the down side, major weaknesses identified include absence of comprehensive National policy, low level of supply and demand, low awareness about the value of ECD and school readiness among parents and government officials, poor quality of existing but limited programs, poor inter-sectoral integration and coordination among providers. These weaknesses could be exacerbated by threats such as rising inflation, increasing food in-security, climate change and conflicts and natural disasters. Based on the above data and situation analysis, it can be concluded that, with the exception of Pakistan, the major issue for the region is that more than 50% of pre-primary school age children do not have access to early learning opportunities. The Diagnostic Journey tool was used to identify the underlying causes for the low coverage/access as listed below. DIAGNOSTIC JOURNEY : ECD IN SOUTH ASIA >70% children of five countries do not have access to ECD facilities Inadequate ECD Coverage Low Quality of Services Lack of Awareness Policy maker & Community Curriculum and Standards Lack of Coordination Low Priority Lack of Technical Expertise Low Resource Allocation Multiple Providers Limited Services material, nutrition, health, etc. Absence of Comprehensive National Policy Issues and Challenges Though the concerned five countries have somewhat diverse socio-economic and political contexts, the following common issues and challenges were identified: Lack of comprehensive National policy for ECD In most cases, there is no formally stated government policy on early childhood development and pre-school education which into account the concept of holistic development of the young child and design approaches to provide for this need. This is a major contributing factor for inadequate ECD coverage. 4

5 Though the concepts and practices regarding ECD and pre-primary education are in focus they are still not a part of the formal national education system in most countries in the region. Limited awareness amongst parents on the importance of ECD The low enrolment rates across the countries, besides highlighting poor coverage, also suggests low priority attached to ECD and school readiness services. Lack of information on values of ECD services leads to low priority given on the part of the governments and low parental awareness and skills in nurturing and providing social and cognitive development and stimulation. Social mobilization and strategic communication activities could help raise awareness and sustain the social and behavioral objectives favorable of this age. Lack of coordination and convergence amongst multiple actors Though limited formal and informal preschool education systems exist in most of SA countries, different sectors such as health, social welfare, and education and civil society (through direct service delivery and through communities, parents, and/or NGOs) agencies are involved in the provision of ECCE/D services to young children and their families. These sectoral agencies often have different sectoral policies limited to their respective mandates making ECCE/D services un-coordinated. In general, provision and availability of ECCE/D services is ad-hoc, limited, and short-lived resulting in millions of children without adequate access and quality services they need during this crucial period of their lives. Poor Quality of services and learning outcomes Quality ECD programs should emphasize on developing children s understanding of their world and supporting the confidence, communication skills and flexibility they need to interact effectively with the world dealing with real life changes, better able to obtain their rights and to be active, contributing members of society. However the existing ECD services are not geared to addressing these issues. Thus the need for trained and equipped personnel for the delivery of quality ECD services. Limited capacity and expertise on ECD In most countries where ECD and school readiness have received low priority, there are not many educators with technical expertise in this area. A basic understanding of child development, their needs and characteristics, how children learn, develop and grow are some essential components which need to be addressed in training programs besides creating higher motivational levels and change in attitudes. These training programs should lead to experiential learning and increased knowledge regarding school readiness through interactive approach to ECD. ECD services and school readiness programs are graded from relatively very good quality, having a small teacher-child ratio to other with very limited quality, extremely poor infrastructure and a very high teacher child ratio. Children who have illiterate parents, who belong to the low socio economic groups, with poor support system at home attend the under resourced programs. Children from literate homes, good support structure, and high socio economic class attend well resourced programs. Added to this are low qualified teachers, with poor motivation and poorer attitudes. Though the private 5

6 preschools have better services in general, there exists a wide range on the quality among them. High inequities and exclusion Though data is limited there are gender disparities indicating less number of girls in Pakistan and Nepal availing the ECD services. Further research needs to investigate the status of ECD and school readiness for the poor, geographically remote communities and other socially marginalized groups who have less access to ECD services. Identification and inclusion of children with special needs into the regular ECD program requires particular attention. In the rural areas the proportion of children receiving early child services is much lower than in the urban areas. The access of girls compared to boys to early learning centers is very low especially in the rural areas. Growing urbanization Population movement trends indicate increasing rural to urban migration. Alongside this more and more women are joining the workforce and more girls enrolling in school. Consequently, child care is no longer the exclusive domain of women and girls; hence the need for quality day care services has become imperative. This would result in increased demand and the opportunity to utilize day care centers as mechanisms to provide quality early learning Lack of resources ECD is not on the high priority list of the countries due to competing priorities for scare resources, be it financial or technical. Some estimates indicate that less than 1% of the education budget is allocated to ECD and pre-primary schooling as in Pakistan 5 and Nepal. II. Policy Options To launch an ECD program in five countries of SA targeting children of 0-6 years of age Three policy options 1. a Implementing ECD through INFORMAL/home based approach (0-6 yrs) 1. b Implementing ECD through FORMAL institutions (3-6 yrs) 2. a. UNIVERSAL coverage in the age group (0-6yrs) with special focus on school readiness 2. b. TARGETTED coverage of children in marginalized group (3-6 yrs) with special focus on school readiness 3. a. Development and implementation of an INTEGRATED ECD program addressing health, nutrition, education, WES and protection approach for 0-6 age group 5 ARNEC/UNICEF, July 2008 Early Childhood Policy, Getting it Right, Lessons Learned from Asia 6

7 3. b. Development and implementation of VERTICAL ECD program for 3-6 age group for school readiness through Education department High Cost Low Cost High Cost Hard to implement Easy to implement Low Cost 1.b 2.a 2.b High Impact 1.a, 3.a 2.a, 2.b 1.b 1.a 3.a 3.b Low Impact 3.b Conclusion : Based on the brief analysis above the following is proposed: Formulate an ECD Policy for universal coverage of 3-6 year children following a formal/informal and integrated approach 7

8 III Key Strategies and Interventions Key Strategies a. Development of Comprehensive National policy on ECD Assist the development of comprehensive National policy for ECD and revise the existing framework/policy to ensure well coordinated approach leading to holistic development of children. The policy should also take into account the various forms of informal systems of preschool education that exist in most SA countries run by communities, parents, and NGOs. The state obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and preparation of the post-dakar National Plan of Action for EFA that is mandated should be leveraged in the development of comprehensive policy for ECD in the respective countries. b. Expanding and improving access to ECD services All the SA countries have committed to EFA goal 1: Expanding and improving early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children by Yet in South Asia, access ranges from less than two percent to 52 percent. To achieve 80 percent GER in ECD by 2015, the SA countries need to triple the investment from current levels. Serious efforts need to make to develop and implement comprehensive plans for increasing both access and quality of ECD services. c. Focal agency for ECD As early child development requires multi sectoral inputs the need for coordination amongst various players would be critical to the success of any ECD program. This calls for clear cut defined roles and responsibilities of various implementing partners with a nodal agency to ensure synergy amongst the partners leading to effective service delivery Key Interventions To implement the above strategies, UNICEF COs in SA prioritizes the following interventions: 1. Evidence based advocacy Limited awareness about the value of ECCE/D has created low attention and demand for quality services. UNICEF COs will develop advocacy and partnership that will be enhanced through systematic knowledge management and communication activities to leverage resources for target age group and to promote their child rights at community, national, regional and international levels. Focus will be on advocacy issues that make the case for: Increased investment and budget allocations, Increasing access to services especially reaching marginalized groups, Improving quality and coordination of services. 2. Communication- Social mobilization and awareness raising Lack of information on values of ECCE/D services leads to low priority given on the side of the governments and low parental awareness and skills in nurturing and providing social and cognitive development and stimulation. 8

9 Social mobilization and strategic communication will be integrated in the country programmes to raise awareness and sustain the social and behavioral objectives favorable of this age. UNICEF COs will strive for meaningful child and community participation in the design, management and monitoring of programmes that are relevant to the lives of under six children and their parents. 3. Developing comprehensive ECD Standards In the absence of standard curriculum and minimum standards, disjointed programs proliferated contributing to sub-standard care and low attainments. Priority will be to develop ELDS and in the process promising interventions and best practices that develop minimum standards of achievement and outcomes will be used as references and guidelines. Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS) and Child-to-child approaches are examples of the interventions that can be supported and scaled up in many of the countries. 4. Building capacity for ECD provision In most SA countries there are major disparities in the knowledge and practices of caregivers regarding ECD, particularly psychosocial development. Capacity development in and support for developing effective policy, minimum standards and research linked with development, implementation and assessment of ECCE/D policy and programs would be a priority intervention. IV Costing and Financing Gross enrollment rates (2004) in ECD programmes range from 1.5% in Bhutan to 52% in Pakistan with an average unit cost of US$25 per child per year. This represents an average GER of 26% and about 1% share of the total annual education budget of these countries. Table 2: Country wise GER and Cost (2004) Countries 3-5 age grp Gross enrolment GER (3-5) Avr. Unit cost (US$) Current Annual Expenditure (US$) Bangladesh 10,899,000 1,122, ,064, Bhutan 25, , India 75,149,000 29,157, ,945, Nepal 1,445, , ,789, Pakistan 7,715,000 4,050, ,259, Total 95,233,000 34,722, ,071, Projections indicate that a one percent increase of ECD share of education budget would double the GER to 52%. 9

10 GER Projections with increased investment 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% ECD share of Education Budget (%) GER Doubling or tripling the budget allocation to ECD could be difficult to sustain in most developing countries but it has the potential to repay the increased cost through efficiency gains in the whole system down the road as enhanced levels of school readiness should eventually translate into lower drop out rates and lower grade repetition rates and high completion rates. The evidence of the benefits of ECCE and its capacity to pay itself back was recently reviewed in the EFA Global Monitoring Report (UNESCO, 2006). Other research indicates that the beneficial impact of early childhood care and education (ECCE) on efficiency in primary education and, more broadly, on several of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is undisputed. There could be gains in other outcomes such as a good health, a stable family life, higher chances of employment, lower crime rates, and so on. (Van der Gaag and Tan, 1998; World Bank s study on Brazil, 2001). Analysis of ECD investment in India suggests higher rates of return than other levels in the long run. India s investment priority juxtaposed with returns to investment and brain development Preschool Returns to investment Elementary secondary Thousands per child investment cumulative brain growth Cumulative spending on ECCE A study covering sub-saharan Africa, Jaramillo and Mingat (2006) estimated that investments in ECCE would be offset by up to 87% as a result of higher efficiency within primary education alone. This suggests that the full 100% of investments, and probably much more, will be recovered if the benefits that accrue at 10

11 higher levels of education and beyond are taken into account. In the developed countries, evaluations of two large programs in the US revealed that every invested dollar pays itself back four or even seven times in terms of broad individual and social outcomes (ADEA Working Group on ECD, 2003). V. Results and Indicators Results Indicators ECD Policy A comprehensive ECD policy developed and approved Nodal agency identified and operationalized Increased resources for ECD Increased annual allocation for ECD (harmonization of resources) Advocacy plan in place Minimum standards improved Health and Nutrition and implemented The child weighs more than 2500 gms at birth Full immunization by the end of the year Completion of prophylaxis (e.g. vitamin A) by the end of three years Toilet trained Increased survival chances Reduced morbidity Improved hygiene Improved weight and height for age Improved micronutrient balances Age appropriate gross motor, visual and auditory skills Psycho social development Improved cognitive development (thinking and reasoning) Improved social development (relationships to others) Improved emotional development 9 self image, security) Improved language skills Progress and performance in Primary school Increased enrolment at primary school Less repetition rate Higher learning and better performances Better completion rates Better participation Improved ability and confidence Efficiency Better attention to health Changed user practices Reduced school repetition and dropout Improved methods and curriculum content Effective implementation and improved coverage Increased access to ECD services Increased capacity of the ECD staff 11

12 Process monitoring undertaken Increased demand for ECD Increased awareness amongst the primary, secondary and tertiary target groups Increased ownership Advocacy plan effectively implemented Networking and PPP established Improved database Periodic impact assessments undertaken and results shared MICS developed Feedback mechanism established for program refinement 12

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