There has been a rapid growth and national support towards the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) subsector in the Pacific region.This has been the finding of a baseline survey of the Pacific Education Development Framework (PEDF) conducted by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat which shows the rapid growth and national support towards the ECCE education subsector in the Pacific region.
The purpose of the baseline survey was two-fold:
1. To assess the status of Forum island countries in each of the six subsectors and eight cross cutting themes under the PEDF; and,
2. To highlight challenges faced by each country and to seek support in meeting such challenges.
The PEDF is the regional education plan endorsed by Forum Education Ministers in 2009 during their meeting in the Kingdom of Tonga.
"Early Childhood Care and Education has been acknowledged and identified as an important subsector by the Forum Education Ministers and one that perhaps has not been prioritized by regional governments over the years and was instead left to communities and NGOs for its development," said Feleti Teo, Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
"The result of the baseline survey however, shows the progress that the region is making and the efforts put in by regional governments to complement the efforts of communities and NGOs in developing the subsector. It is encouraging to note in particular, the development of national policies and curriculum guidelines to guide the subsector and to ensure quality and equity in the provision of early childhood care and education," said Mr Teo
He explained: "This has come about due to the efforts governments have made to develop and build the subsector. In addition the setting up of coordination structures at both the national and inter-sectoral levels and strong community participation has provided the impetus and platform for continued and sustained development."
The survey however shows continuing challenges facing the subsector such as access especially for remote and isolated communities and for some countries, establishing viable and sustainable ECCE centers in small communities.
The survey also points out the challenges facing countries in the provision of quality teaching and learning resources, remuneration and status of teachers, and the need for teacher training programmes. In 9 of the 13 countries surveyed, teachers are recruited and paid by local communities. While research has shown the importance of early childhood education to the overall education development of a child, the limited resources available to Ministries of Education in Pacific island countries will continue to pose challenges to the subsector.
The Forum Secretariat acknowledges the lead role that UNICEF is playing in coordinating the development of the ECCE subsector under the PEDF and in particular, its efforts towards the setting up of the Regional ECCE Council.