ARAB RESOURCE COLLECTIVE
Arab Network for Early Childhood Development (ANECD) Founding Forum, 15-17 December, 2014

ARAB RESOURCE COLLECTIVE
Arab Network for Early Childhood Development (ANECD) Founding Forum, 15-17 December, 2014

I. Introduction

This report1 covers the proceedings of the Founding Forum of the Arab Network for Early Childhood Development (ANECD). The three-day meeting included 24 presentations related to networking and ECD challenges globally and in Arab countries. The participants adopted a "Concluding Document" with recommendations and a road map for the deployment of the Network.

II. Forum Preparation

  1. The Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) and the Arab Resource Collective (ARC) convened this Forum as part of the Arab Program for Early Childhood Development (APECD). APECD was one of five components of the Arab Regional Agenda for Improving Education Quality (ARAIEQ) implemented by ALECSO in cooperation with the World Bank2.
  2. A concept paper presented the general objective of the Network, the umbrella role of APECD in launching the project, and the major outcomes anticipated from the Founding Forum.
  3. APECD’s Advisory Group met before the Forum to elaborate the agenda, major themes and facilitation, and had a preliminary discussion on the benefits of networking, the objectives of the anticipated Network, its vision, the conditions for its establishment and future steps.
  4. The Forum’s participants (Appendix 1) were 25 women and 16 men from 11 Arab countries, including government officials, program coordinators, specialists from international and Arab organizations and networks, academics and experts, in addition to ARC’s team and two speakers through
    video-link.

III. Proceedings of the Forum

In the third year of APECD, this forum was designed to manage the founding of the "Arab Network for Early Childhood Development": build a regional networking structure as a platform of support for ECD professionals and organizations in the Arab Region.

At the opening of the Forum, some participants joined the Advisory Group to form a large Steering Committee to ensure the effective functioning of the meeting. Other participants formed a documentation team.

The Forum included nine sessions over three days, with a daily meeting of the Steering Committee to review the work and make adjustments.

Day one: general framework and presentations3 on early childhood status in Arab countries

A.1 Opening presentations:

  1. A message from the General Director of ALECSO confirmed interest in the Forum’s objectives and the network project, and was presented by Hayet Wadi, Director of the Education Department at ALECSO.
  2. A presentation of the Arab Regional Agenda for Improving Education Quality (ARAIEQ) by the Assistant Director of the Program at ALECSO, Doha Jaballah.
  3. A presentation of APECD, its three functions, accomplishments and networking precedents, along with a general overview of ARC and its ECD work . by Ghassan Issa and Lara Aoudeh, APECD director and coordinator respectively.
  4. A Compact Disk was distributed to the participants, which included all the resources issued by the APECD, in addition to relevant resources from ARC, "Brookings Institution" and the "International Network for Education in Emergencies" (INEE).

These were followed by a general discussion, which allowed the participants to air their concerns and demand clarifications.

A.2 Expectations and agenda of the Forum:

Before the agenda was presented, the participants were invited to state their own expectations of the meeting, summarized as follows:

  • Learning about early childhood status and relevant experiences
  • Establishing mechanisms and forming working groups for building a network that contributes to:
    • Drafting an efficient Arab strategy and a common media plan
    • Working with governments on the priorities for achieving the
      post 2015 goals and addressing related challenges
    • Developing quality standards
    • Facilitating access to technical support and mutual learning
    • Benefiting from regional resources such as ARC and APECD.

Youssef Hajjar presented the objectives of the meeting, its suggested agenda and the three major themes building on one another:

  • Status of ECCD and its challenges,
  • Networking as concept, mechanisms and expertise,
  • The Arab Network’s vision, objectives, structure and follow-up.

A.3 Presentations4 to build a common ground of knowledge, experience and best practice:

The background:

  • 1. "ECD Challenges in Arab Countries Post 2015" in light of the Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030, Ghassan Issa.
  • 2. "Early Childhood Post 2015 in UNICEF Vision", Pia Britto, Senior Adviser, Early Childhood Development Unit, UNICEF (by video link). The presentation affirmed ECD as the basis for sustainable economic and social development and introduced the themes of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Reality, expectations and challenges in six Arab countries:

  • 3. Lebanon: Rita Karam, General Secretary of the Higher Council for Childhood
  • 4. Yemen: Lamia El-Iriani, General Secretary of the Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood
  • 5. Tunisia: Fawzia Chaaban, General Director for Childhood in the Department of Woman and Family of the League of Arab States
  • 6. Mauritania: Dr. Mohamed Al-Amin Mostafa, Director of Early Childhood Training
  • 7. Palestine: Souheir Afana, Head of Kindergartens Department at the Ministry of Education
  • 8. Jordan: Alia Arabiyat, Director of Childhood Department at the Ministry of
    Education

The presentations and discussions that ensued showed common trends and needs, which represent a common ground for the Network’s objectives:

  • Awareness of government institutions and parents of the importance of early childhood
  • Absence of early care and development in national strategies
  • Lack of policies, curricula, budgets and adequate information and data
  • Duplication and multiplicity of instances of decision-making
  • Absence of measurement and evaluation criteria, including for the competence of educators
  • Deficit in enrollment rates in ECD programs compared to the increase in demand
  • Private sector dominance of this field for profit making
  • Poverty and poor health conditions
  • Calls for strategies and opportunities for collective programming.

A.4 Presentations of existing networks:

  • 9. The Consultative Group for ECCD, by Youssef Hajjar (former chair of the CG Board): how the CG emerged, evolved and developed its networking structure and practice to become the international "reference", its membership and methods of communications.
  • 10. The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) by Executive Director, Ziad Abdel Samad: the principle of partnership, network structure, inverse correlation between expansion/diversity and strength/cohesion, accountability, open membership as opposed to strict criteria, minimum internal solidarity as a condition for sustainability, acceptable funding sources and affiliation to international networks.
  • 11. The Arab Resource Collective (ARC), by its former General Coordinator, Ghanem Bibi: the distinction between "practicing networking" and "establishing a network". Since 1988, ARC was designed for organizing collective work with partners on common needs and related Arabic resources, within a regional mandate. It played the role of intermediate facilitator, but resisted becoming an institutionalized network to avoid potential risks to its core mandate.
  • 12. Early childhood and networking from the perspective of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Lebanon, by General Director, Fadi Yarak: the need for networking especially in light of the exclusion of children under three from the mandate of the Ministry, domination of the private sector in early education, major challenges resulting from Syrian displacement, and the need for "informal" support schemes and flexible programs. The expectations from networking: new knowledge, data and resources, monitoring and evaluation, integrating experts and academic partners, developing standards, cooperating with professional organizations and providing opportunities of interaction with other ministries.
  • 13. The "Arab Campaign for Education for All" (ACEFA) by one of its members, Tesneem Al-Hamooz: emphasis on mobilizing community members to develop policies that achieve "Education for All", building active participation and promoting networking. The presentation included a model of networking.
  • 14. Save the Children’s experience of "Networking in Difficult Circumstances" in Jordan by the director of ECD Program, Muna Abbas: defining difficult circumstances and how it differs for the child, what to do, and the essential role of networking.
  • 15. The role of Academia by the President of the Early Childhood Care Team at the Lebanese University, Fadia Hoteit: networking in academia for multiple purposes, such as exchanging experiences, documentation, increasing opportunities of developing learning in quality EC centers, providing a database of courses, research, training and specialized experts
  • 16. The Mother and Child Education Foundation (ACEV) from Turkey, by the International Relations Specialist, Sona Hanoz: ACEV started with individual initiatives by academicians and funding from a family foundation to transfer knowledge to mothers (and later to fathers) of five-year old children, and gradually developed into a nation-wide program through partnerships with Ministries and local authorities.
  • 17. A presentation (by video link) on Networking in Yale University by James Leckman: the necessity of sustainable multi-sectorial partnerships such as Yale’s partnership with ACEV and ARC, and the importance of responsive parental care and its effect on the constitution of the brain, its functions, the physical health and the future of human beings and society.
  • 18. The International Pediatric Association (IPA) approach to the "Role of the Pediatrician in Early Childhood Development" by Joseph Haddad, President of the Lebanese Pediatric Society: the essential overlap between health, environment and behavior, the effect of mental stress/tension on producing "abnormal" levels of "stress hormones", and the impact on brain development and growth in early years.
  • 19. "Beirut Declaration for Early Care, Education and Development for a Better Childhood", presented by Ghassan Issa: an example of recent networking between local, regional and international institutions, unions and professional associations, governmental and non-governmental organizations for the best interest of the child, adopting a "holistic integrated inclusive approach" and engaging medical doctors, medical students and nursing staff in inclusive programs for child care and development from the start.

B. Day two: A roadmap for deploying the network

B.1 Work in groups

Following the presentations, a participative approach was adopted to build the framework and characteristics of the network in. The Forum’s facilitator suggested the following background:

  • The challenges of ECCD within the Sustainable Development Goals post-2015, presented earlier.
  • The Four Cornerstones developed by CG for programming in ECCD. A brief reminder:
  • * Conception to three: Information is scarce, disparities between and within countries are big despite the emphasis on this stage and a few parenting programs.
    • Four to six (kindergartens): Information and experiences are more abundant. Challenges encompass quality, enrollment rates and access for the majority, particularly through public services.
    • Six to eight: Emphasis on quality in basic education.
    • Policies: Only a few Arab countries have comprehensive and sustainable ECD national policies.
  • Two further topics emerged in the presentations/discussions:
    • Dynamic interaction between the public sector and the private and civil society sectors.
    • The significance of the capital of trained professionals for all age categories, in quantitative and qualitative terms.
  • Examples of points related to networking:
    • Networking patterns at the local, regional and international levels
    • Networking principles, such as the need for compatibility between membership and objectives
    • Representative membership: Governmental? Non-governmental? Academic?
    • Motivation of members to join and the quality of leadership.

B.2 Working groups:

The participants were given the option to join any of the following four groups, recommending that each should include representatives from governments, civil society and academia:

  • Three groups to work on three topics related to networking:
    1. The challenges and strategic needs of early childhood in Arab countries that can be addressed through regional initiatives that support the work at national level?
    2. How can we turn challenges into three or four major programs that the network can undertake?
    3. From your professional and institutional position, how do you see your role and contribution to the work of the network?
  • A fourth group to look into what APECD accomplished in three years. Members of this group must have participated in two or more program’s events.

Reports:

The four groups reported in plenary. A synthesis of the first three groups:

Challenges Programs and roles
  • Promote and disseminate awareness of the importance of early childhood in all age categories, with an integrated approach and all its challenges and needs
  • Elaborate policies and legislations based on research, allocate appropriate budgets, and work towards ensuring free EC services
  • Overcome the difficulty of coordination between relevant ministries and with civil society, and streamline the fragmented mandates and responsibilities.
  • Concentrate on the children not enrolled in EC education and care programs and work with their parents
  • Develop/use innovative/alternative programs that would support/complement the formal educational system
  • Create grass-root networks and programs for training parents
  • Adopt indicators for measurement, accountability and quality, monitor implementation and include reviews in the reports to UN Committee for the Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Facilitate academics’ contribution in conducting research and longitudinal studies and in designing programs and curricula.

Working group 4 produced an assessment of APECD work in its "three functions" (Appendix 2).

Future steps: moving forward?

The four groups were merged into two and asked to work on different items:

Groups 1 & 3 Groups 2 & 4
  • Membership and components of the network
  • Governance, decision-making and legal status
  • Vision, mission and main objectives
  • Programmatic components.
  • Coordination and management structure
  • Funding mechanisms and sustainability.

Here is a summary of the groups’ reports:

  • Vision: Towards an Arab network pooling experiences and resources for the development of childhood and a better future, acknowledged at the Arab and international levels.
  • General objective: The network will work on producing and disseminating knowledge, exchanging best practice and promoting policies that foster early childhood development.
  • Membership: voluntary; governmental, non-governmental and academic; professional and sectorial; institutions, coalitions and individual professionals; observer status for supportive international organizations.
  • Location: Tunisia or Beirut (within the Arab Program for ECD at ALECSO and/or ARC)
  • General Assembly of all members meeting once every two years, with a Coordinating Committee and a President to be elected alternatively from different countries, as well as a Secretariat and a General Coordinator
  • By-laws ensuring transparency
  • Membership fees, fund-raising initiatives and investment EC projects
  • Consultative committees for evaluation and sustainability, an active website and programming relevant to the needs of the sector.

C. Day three: Forum outcomes, recommendations and future steps

In the final day of the forum, participants adopted a "concluding document" (appendix 3) summarizing the vision and objectives of the Arab Network for ECD, prepared on the basis of the recommendations of the working groups.

It was agreed to send the document to the participants for review within their organizations in order to generate support for the deployment of the Network and the sustainability of APECD.

Participants’ reflections:

They affirmed the importance of the Forum and thanked the organizers. They considered the reflections and experiences presented to be constructive and encouraging openness and cooperation. They added that establishing the Arab Network for ECD was an ambitious project, which needed care to grow and achieve concrete results.

Appendix 1 – Participants in the Founding Forum:

  • Governmental agencies from 11 Arab Countries:
    • 1. Atef Zakhari, Cairo University, Egypt
    • 2-3. Alia Arabeiat and Abdallah Kawkaza, Ministry of Education, Jordan
    • 4-5. Hania Khanji and Lubna Zoghbi, National Council of Family Affairs, Jordan
    • 6. Fadi Yarak, Ministry of Education, Labanon
    • 7. Rita Karam, Higher Education and Higher Council for Childhood, Lebanon
    • 8. Zahaa Al-Burousi, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Libya
    • 9. Mohammad Amin Almustapha, Council of Early Childhood Development, Mauritania
    • 10. Aziz Kayshouh. Moroccan Institute for the Development of Primary Education, Morocco
    • 11. Amer Al-Aysari, Ministry of Education and Teaching, Oman
    • 12. Suheir Aafaneh, Ministry of Education and Higher Education,
    • 13. Asmaa Fadel, Centre for Early Childhood Development, Sudan
    • 14. Fawzia Chabaan, Ministry of State for Woman and Family, Tunisia
    • 15. Lamia Al-Ariani, Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood, Yemen
  • * Regional NGOs and networks:
    • 16. Tasnim Hamouz, Arab Campaign for Education for All
    • 17. Mohammad Fawzi, Arab Council for Child Development
    • 18. Ziad Abdessamad, Arab NGO Network for Development
    • 19. Maha Sader, Welfare Association
  • Local NGOs and networks
    • 20. Omar Assaf, Centre for Teacher Creativity and Palestinian Education Alliance, Palestine
    • 21. Rula Haiari, Jordan River Association
    • 22-23. Mona Taji and Daad Hadaya, Queen Rania Academy for Teacher Training, Jordan
    • 24. Alice Kayrouz: NGO Alliance for Children’s Rights in Lebanon
  • International Agencies:
    • 25, 26. Mona Abbas and Sahar Matarneh, Save the Children, Jordan
    • 27, 28. Suleiman Mleiahat and Mohammad Ghossain, American Near East Refugee Aid, Palestine:
    • 29. Joseph Haddad, International Paediatrics Association, Lebanon:
    • 30. Sona Hanouz, Mother and Child Education Foundation (ACEV), Turkey:
  • Academia:
  • 31, 32. Fadia Hoteit and Elie Mikhail, Lebanese University, Lebanon
  • UN agencies
    • 33. Suad Nabhan, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Jordan
    • ARAIEQ/ALECSO
    • 34, 35, 36. Hayat Hedi, Duha Jaballah and Sara Hommel
  • Individual experts
    • 37. Bushra Kaddura, Lebanon
    • 38. Hayfaa Abul Jabin. Jordan
    • 39. Samir Jarrar, Lebanon
    • 40. Ghanem Bibi
    • 41. Youssef Hajjar
  • APECD/ARC coordinators:
    • Ghassan Issa, Lara Audeh and Cosette Maalouf
  • Other countries and organizations were invited but could not attend, e.g. the World Bank; the regional offices of UNESCO and UNICEF; Women, Family and Childhood Department of the League of Arab States; AGFUND; The CG and other regional ECD networks; etc.

    Appendix 2 . Working group 4 report.

    Assessment of the outcomes of APECD’s phase 1 (2012-2014) in its three functions: think tank, networking and resource production and use.

    A number of Forum participants, who have attended or contributed to at least two APECD activities during the last three years, have volunteered to make a quick assessment of the program’s achievements (time did not allow for an in-depth evaluation).

    WG members received APECD’s action plan for 2012-2014, which stated the general objectives, as well as the expected outputs and indicators of success for each activity. The director and coordinator of the program had presented the outcomes in a Forum plenary and were at hand to provide the WG with any additional information.

    WG members decided they could only confirm that the activities have been achieved and they gave an overall "positive" assessment of all the outcomes. They compiled the following list:

    11-12 Oct 2013

    Activity Date
    Regional conference to launch the three functions of APECD 22-24 Nov 2012
    First meeting of the Advisory Group of APECD 10 Oct 2013
    Regional conference to define ECD status in the Arab region and recommend strategic programmatic priorities.
    Bibliography of research and directory of experts in ECD in the Arab countries 2013
    Updating the mapping of pre- and in-service training for ECD professionals in 6 Arab countries, institutions and programs. (The original mapping was executed by ARC prior to APECD). 2013
    Regional training workshop for KG teachers, co-convened with ARAIEQ’s Arab Program for Teacher Professional Development (Queen Rania Teacher Academy) 18-20 Dec 2013
    Regional training and piloting workshop for the condensed course on the Science of ECD in Arabic 13-17 Oct 2014
    Promotion of the use of the WB’s Systems Approach for Better Education in ECD in Arab countries: two cases in Tunisia and Lebanon 2014-2015
    Second meeting of the Advisory Group of APECD 14 Dec 2014
    Founding Forum of the Arab Network for ECD, moderated by the Advisory Group 15-17 Dec 2014
    Experts meeting to enrich the curriculum of the condensed course on the Science of ECD in Arabic Preparations under way for January 2015
    Production of manual for in-service training of KG teachers on the holistic integrated approach and active learning in ECD Production in early 2015
    APECD page within the websites of ARC and ARAIEQ On-going

    In addition, the WG highly appreciated that ARC has placed at the disposal of ARAIEQ/APECD the use of resources that had been produced in previous years, in particular the following manuals/courses that are relevant for the next phase of the program:

    • "Partners in home and school": training of teachers on enhancing partnership with parents for children’s better academic performance and healthy development.
    • Health and Education in ECD – parents-to-parents program: a curriculum for mothers and fathers on the holistic and integrated approach to ECD, to enhance their role in caring for their children at home, in the neighbourhood and at school, from conception to age five (with plans to cover age 6 to 8).

    Appendix 3 – Concluding Document of the Founding Forum

    By invitation of the Arab Program for ECD (APECD), hosted by the Arab Resource Collective (ARC), under the umbrella of the Arab Regional Agenda for Improving Education Quality (ARAIEQ) based at the Arab League’s Education, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (ALECSO), the Founding Forum of the Arab Network for Early Childhood Development (ANECD) was convened on 15-17 December 2014 in Amman, Jordan. Representatives of ministries of education and social affairs, childhood councils, NGOs and academia, as well as individual early childhood experts attended the Forum. They came from 15 Arab and foreign countries.

    After a program of presentations and debates, the participants adopted the following document for the deployment of the ANECD:

    Preliminaries:

    1. The early childhood development sector is marginalised in most Arab countries.
    2. There is preparedness at the political level to give the ECD sector the importance it requires. This was stated at the Conference of Arab Ministers of Education held in 2010 at Doha: "Towards Improving Education Quality". ALECSO implemented the Conference’s recommendations by creating ARAIEQ with its five program components, including the Arab Program for ECD (APECD).
      • There is a conviction that it is necessary to search for the appropriate measures to establish a network that would include representatives of governments, civil society and academia, as well as individual experts. All the participants in the Founding Forum expressed their commitment to establishing such a network, for the crucial and useful role it can play in promoting the ECD sector and supporting the activities required to improve the network’s role at the Arab regional and national levels.
      • Under the Umbrella of ALECSO, APECD has already initiated networking among relevant partners in the sector by setting up a think tank, which carried out research and convened thematic and training workshops, and by producing needed resources and tools. In doing that, it paved the way for building the Arab Network for ECD.
      • APECD, hosted by ARC as part of ARAIEQ and in partnership with ALECSO, has accumulated the expertise required for hosting the Arab Network for ECD.
      • APECD has also built solid partnerships with the actors engaged in the ECD sector in the Arab countries.

    The Arab Network for Early Childhood Development (ANECD)

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    Vision:
    Towards a better future with an Arab network mobilizing expertise and resources in ECD.
    General objective:
    The Arab network will produce and disseminate knowledge, share best practice and advocate for policies that support ECD
    Operational measures and a roadmap:

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  • The Founding Forum declares that the participants constitute the Founding Assembly of the Arab Network for ECD.
  • The Founding Assembly mandates a Follow up Committee made up of the members of the steering team of this Forum.
  • The Founding Assembly mandates the Arab Program for ECD to manage the communications between the Follow up Committee and the Founding Assembly, and with ARAIEQ.
  • APECD is requested to submit to the Follow up Committee and the Founding Assembly, as well as the Scientific Advisory Board of ARAIEQ, by mid-February at the latest, a draft of a reference document detailing the following headlines:

  • i. Early Childhood and the Sustainable Development Goals post-2015
  • ii. The relevance and necessity of ANECD for defining the needs and addressing the challenges at the regional level, and proving support at the national level
  • iii. The composition and tasks of the Founding Assembly of ANECD
  • iv. The basic principles for the membership of governments (including the possibility of membership of more than one government agency in a given country), and the criteria for voluntary membership which will give governments the right to establish "focal points" in the future.
  • v. The basic principles for the membership of civil society organisations and academia, and the criteria for voluntary membership which will give APECD, in consultation with ARAIEQ/ALECSO, the right to select future members.
  • vi. The program of work of the network in its current phase.
  • vii. The methods and sources of funding.
  • 5. The following is a roadmap for adoption and funding based on what has been agreed in the Founding Forum
    • i. APECD receives the feedback from the Follow up Committee and the Founding Assembly by the end of February 2015
    • ii. The Founding Assembly will promote the Reference Document and lobby governments in order to obtain their formal approval where possible.
    • iii. Prior formal approval by individual governments will enhance the opportunity of its adoption by ALECSO’s governing bodies, as well as acceptance by funding agencies.
    • iv. The General Secretary of the Higher Council for Childhood in Lebanon has volunteered to convene a meeting for relevant partners, representatives of ministries, civil society organisations and academia in Lebanon, to reach approval of the draft. She suggested that members of the Founding Assembly do the same in their respective countries.
    • v. The Reference Document will be shared with the agencies who attended the Founding Forum and other partners, for consultation and support, namely the World Bank, Save the Children, ANERA and ACEV.
    • vi. ALECSO will present the Reference Document to its governing bodies in 2015, for validation.
    1. This paper was translated from the Arabic Report by Rania Saheli and edited by Youssef Hajjar, who was the principal facilitator of the Forum. Ghanem Bibi prepared the Arabic report.
    2. ARAIEQ/APECD were terminated when the three-year funding grant from the World Bank ended in December 2014.
    3. All the presentations listed in this report are compiled as appendices to the Arabic report of the Forum. They are mostly in Arabic.
    4. Some of the presentations were made on the second and third day of the Forum, to accommodate the availability of the presenters. However, they are all listed in this section to ensure a coherent flow of the report.

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