Education for All
In March 1990, in Jomtien, Thailand, participants at the World Conference on Education for All ratified the Conference Declaration, which included the statement:"Learning begins at birth. This calls for early childhood care and initial education. These can be provided through arrangements involving families, communities or institutional programmes as appropriate" (Article 5).
A Framework for Action was developed to guide governments and their partners from civil society in creating national plans of action with targets to be met by the end of the decade, including:"Expansion of early childhood care and development activities, including family and community interventions, especially for poor, disadvantaged and disabled children" (Article 5, para. 8).
The Consultative Group was instrumental in lobbying, along with others, to ensure that the fundamental concept "Learning Begins at Birth" was taken on board and integrated into the overall Jomtien agreement. What is more BASIC than a solid foundation for all later learning? When we remember that our goal is to build childrenĄ¯s capacities to become fully participating members of society, we are reminded to look at their whole development: their nutrition and health status, their environmental supports, the love and nurturing they receive, their opportunities to play, explore, learn, interact with materials, solve problems and participate in their communities. In the context of a whole life, it becomes clear that lifelong capacity rests on the foundation established in the first several years.
In 2000, in Dakar, Senegal at the World Education Forum, 104 countries reported on the assessment of their progress toward achieving the goals of EFA ¨C including two indicators for ECCD. The international community adopted the Dakar Framework of Action reaffirming the Declaration of 1990 including ECCE as the first of 6 goals:
"All young children must be nurtured in safe and caring environments that allow them to become healthy, alert and secure and be able to learn. The past decade has provided more evidence that good quality early childhood care and education, both in families and in more structured programmes, have a positive impact on the survival, growth, development and learning potential of children. Such programmes should be comprehensive, focusing on all of the child's needs and encompassing health, nutrition and hygiene as well as cognitive and psychosocial development. They should be provided in the child's mother tongue and help to identify and enrich the care and education of children with special needs. Partnerships between governments, NGO's, communities and families can help ensure the provision of good care and education for children, especially for those most disadvantaged, through activities centered on the child, focused on the family, based within the community and supported by national, multi-sect oral policies and adequate resources." (para 30)
"Governments , through relevant ministries, have the primary responsibility of formulating early childhood care and education policies within he context of national EFA plans, mobilizing political and popular support, and promoting flexible, adaptable programmes for young children that are appropriate to their age and not mere downward extensions of formal school systems. The education of parents and other caregivers in better child care, building on traditional practices, and the systematic use of early childhood indicators, are important in achieving this goal." (para. 31)
Goal # 1: "Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children."
In addition the following two related paragraphs:
Key and ongoing activities of the CG in EFA have included:
- During the mid-decade review meeting in 1996, in Amman, Jordan, the Consultative Group reinforced the message of 'learning begins at birth' with that of "8 is Too Late." While a focus on primary education is very important, 8 is too late to start paying attention to childrenĄ¯s learning needs. By the time a child reaches school age, most key brain wiring, language abilities, physical capabilities and cognitive foundations have been set in place. ECCD programs play a crucial role in establishing basic education for all.
- During the 2000 World Education Forum in Dakar: on behalf of the Consultative Group and with the support of UNICEF, Robert Myers, produced the commissioned report, EFA 2000 Assessment Thematic Studies: Early Childhood Care and Development: Full Report, which examined global and national changes that occurred in basic education and learning since the World Conference on Education for All held in Jomtien, Thailand in March 1990. In addition, the Consultative Group organised a Strategy Session on ECD highlighting key issues and challenges for the future and contributing to the Dakar Framework for Action - reaffirming global commitment to reaching EFA goals by 2015.
- Providing leadership on EFA Flagship for Goal 1 and ongoing participation where relevant in working groups and high level meetings including the 2006 high level EFA meeting in Cairo to discuss the 2007 Global Monitoring Report on Goal 1
- Successfully lobbying the GMR team to highlight Goal 1 for the 2007 GMR, subsequent contributions to the report Strong Foundations: Early Childhood Care and Education and active participation in global and regional launches
- Steering committee member of the Canadian Global Campaign for Education and Global Campaign for Education working to move the EFA Agenda forward. The Global Campaign for Education's 4th General Assembly February 22-25, 2011, brought together more than 300 campaigners from GCE's member coalitions to discuss the current work of GCE and future strategic directions. As a member of GCE, the CG is pleased to highlight the efforts of GCE and its members to commit to specific action on early childhood care and education and successful transitions to school as part of its Education for All mandate. This includes a 2012 Global Action Week on Early Childhood. For Caroline Arnold's plenary presentation on ECCE and Equity, click here. For more information on the work of the CG and partners related to successful transitions, click here.
III - What has been achieved: progress toward the EFA goals (page 6)
Goal 1: Early childhood care and education (ECCE)
The Jomtien Declaration made it clear: "learning begins at birth" (not, as many assumed, when children enter primary school). This brought to the foreground the importance of the first years of a child's life in determining her/his future educational achievement and broader developmental outcomes.
Globally, considerable progress has been made in achieving the first Dakar goal. Early childhood well-being is improving, and child mortality and malnutrition rates have declined in many countries in all regions of the world (although many, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West, still have high rates). Enrolment in pre-school programmes has also expanded over the last decade as more and more governments have realised the positive impact which a comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach to the health, nutrition, and cognitive and psycho-social development of young children can have on both educational efficiency and later social outcomes. Of particular significance is the growing body of research in the last decade that has shed light on both the critical importance and the cost-efficiency of ECCE (e.g., the brain development that occurs in the first years of a child's life and ECCE's high rate of return to investment).
Many countries, such as in Latin America and the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa, have developed ECCE policies, and more and more of these, including many in Asia and the Pacific, understand that these much be multi-sectoral and comprehensive in nature. Thus, gross enrolment ratios in pre-primary education are almost 50% or more in East Asia and the Pacific (49%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (68%) and have increased significantly since 2000 in South/West Asia (from 25% to 42%) and Central Asia (22% to 29%). But low rates and little improvement are seen in sub-Saharan Africa (from 12% to 17%) and the Arab States (from 16% to 19%).
The important parenthetical part of this goal, "especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children ", has been less successfully met. According to the 2011 Global Monitoring Report, among the sixty-eight countries with high child mortality rates, only nineteen will likely meet the MDG child mortality target of 2015, and one-third of all children under five years of age in developing countries suffer from stunting, a sign of poor nutritional status (2011 Global Monitoring Report Summary, page 9). Around the world, although gender parity in pre-school education has generally been achieved (except in the Arab States), expansion of ECCE programmes has largely been to the benefit of urban, well-to-do groups, thus both denying such programmes to the most disadvantaged children (e.g., of poor and rural families and those with disabilities) who have the most to gain from them and increasing the gap in school readiness between the rich and the poor and between urban and rural populations.
Ministries of Education, too, have been slow to assume the role they could and should assume in regard to the well-being of children aged 0-3. Such children are usually seen as the responsibility of other ministries -- health and/or social welfare, for example -- when, in fact, the education sector can also contribute significantly to their well-being. Education ministries, for example, can ensure that any adult education/literacy courses and even formal school curricula (especially in secondary school) contain messages important to future parents in regard to the health and nutrition of both mothers and young children and the essential need for these children to receive stronger cognitive and psycho-social support and stimulation from birth.
The majority of countries in the world now have some kind of early childhood policy in place. But the regional EFA reports still reveal a considerable lack of understanding, at both national and community level, about the importance of ECCE. Thus, these policies, where they exist, frequently:
- are not based on the systematic definition of, and the collection of data on, relevant indicators of both child development and the ECCE sub-sector as a whole
- lack information and data on the many non-formal, community- and private sector-based programmes which are expanding in many countries; these include both good quality programmes for the elite and poor quality, often unsupervised and even unsafe programmes for the less advantaged
- lack a comprehensive, coherent, multi-sectoral, and multi-partner ECCE framework and strategy (across ministries, with the NGO and private sector) embedded in larger national development plans
- have no overall policy coordinating mechanism (such as the National ECCE Council in the Philippines) across the relevant, multiple partners; such a mechanism is essential for effective service delivery
- have no systematic structure for training the range of caregivers and pre-school teachers required for a good ECCE system (e.g., fewer than 10% of ECCE personnel in Africa are considered qualified) or assessing the system's strengths and weaknesses
- neglect not only the health and nutritional needs of children aged 0-3 but also, due to lack of Ministry of Education interest, their need for cognitive and psycho-social development
- a serious lack of funding, at least from the government sector -- which leads to the risk of unsupervised, private sector-dominated ECCE provision
The development by 2015 of comprehensive, integrated ECCE policies and related strategies and programmes which systematically respond to the above concerns is therefore an important priority for all countries of the world.
20 years+ - Progress on EFA since 1990
Hosted by UNESCO and the Kingdom of Thailand, the 2011 High Level Group meeting took place in Jomtien, Thailand, the site of the historical 1990 World Conference on Education where the Education For All movement was launched. The meeting highlighted new statistics and research findings from the 2011 GMR on Armed Conflict and Education, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and regional reports for 1990-2010. Participants also revisited the original Jomtien vision of Meeting basic learning needs, as well as reviewed progress towards the six EFA goals adopted in Dakar in 2000:
see Summary Report of progress by region and all goals including including progress on Goal 1 as well as the final Declaration of the meeting which includes reference to the need for ongoing investment in early childhood as part of life-long learning.