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First meeting / Document 6
Early Childhood Education and Development
The Consultative Group on ECCD
Kathly Bartlett
Aga Khan Foundation

Dakar (2000) -- Goal # 1
"Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education,
especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children."


This presentation is on behalf of the joint Consultative Group on ECCD, a diverse consortium of agencies, donors, NGOs and foundations that links with regional-based ECD networks comprising individuals and organisations involved in programming, research, policy-advocacy, monitoring and evaluation in the field of ECD. The Consultative Group (CG) has been operating for over 15 years and we continue to evolve. Those listed on the agenda, namely the Aga Khan Foundation, Bernard van Leer Foundation, Save the Children Alliance, UNICEF and UNESCO have been long-standing partners in the Consultative Group. However, there are many others not mentioned including USAID, Christian Children's Fund, Academy for Education Development, World Bank, Plan International, Pueblito, Latin American Development Bank, High/Scope Foundation. Moreover there are the regional networks that have been established are or in the process of being established in Latin America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South Asia, South/East Asia, and Africa (which is moving towards sub-regional groups).

The CG operates through a small International Secretariat, which draws on the consortium, the regional representatives and others' work, knowledge and expertise for its dissemination, awareness-raising and advocacy work. The Secretariat - in partnership with the other members of the consortium and regional networks - works actively to identify gaps, critical issues and emerging areas of need and interest related to ECD, and to seek out new partners. The CG Consortium, Regional Members and Secretariat engage in:

  • knowledge networking' through sharing experiences, synthesising what is known and transmitting the knowledge through each organisation's and region's networks via publications, personal exchanges and action (i.e.; the Coordinator's Notebook published twice yearly which focuses on priority issues in the field)

  • advocacy in diverse fora (i.e., EFA follow-up) and within agencies and networks

  • joint action research and initiatives that pool resources for greater impact and coverage (i.e., indicators work on ECCD described below).

  • Participation in the EFA Process

    The CG partners within the regions and across agencies have been heavily involved in the EFA process since Jomtien. At that first World Conference on Education for All, the CG consortium lobbied -- along with others -- to ensure that the fundamental concept that "Learning Begins at Birth" was taken on board and integrated into the overall Jomtien agreement. In Amman, Jordan, the Consultative Group reinforced this message with that of "Eight is Too Late". In preparation for Dakar, some of our partners (agency and regional participants) attended and provided inputs into some of regional meetings that led up to the conference in April, and Robert G. Myers (a member of the Secretariat) undertook on behalf of the CG a review of the decade in relation to ECD for the Dakar conference. In addition, the Consultative Group organised a Strategy Session on Early Childhood Development in Dakar (report attached) highlighting key issues and challenges for the future. Finally, members from the Consultative Group on ECCD participated on the EFA Steering Committee over the last number of years.

    At our annual meeting (May 2000), we agreed collectively that regional participants and member organisations would continue to look for appropriate opportunities for ongoing participation and active engagement in the proposed follow-up to Dakar. Through this we aim to ensure ongoing awareness raising of ECD and its ability to contribute towards the overall EFA process (e.g. it enhances children's early development, it can increase the efficiency of basic education, it complements and supports other goals such as increasing girls' education and women's literacy). We will also continue on with our other joint work, dissemination activities and policy advocacy.

    Achievements over the last decade and remaining challenges

    There were major advances in reducing infant and child mortality -- though malnutrition is still high in many places. There has been some inclusion of ECD in national plans but there is still a lack of good and comprehensive laws and policies, especially for children under 3.

    While there was a tendency for enrolments to increase the variations across and within countries are large and ECD programmes still are highly concentrated on pre-school education and tend to reach children who live in urban areas and are from better off families.

    The knowledge base for ECD has grown and as has the overall awareness of ECD of political leaders, funders, planners and the population at large as well.

    The availability of financing for ECD is a mixed picture. There were some increases from international agencies (i.e., World Bank) but differences remain across national governments and in some cases, such as Eastern European and CIS countries, funding dropped dramatically over the decade.

    Future areas of priority and challenges

    Improving and Developing Appropriate indicators for ECD within specific countries. One of the findings from the end of decade review was that there is a pressing need to establish better systems to monitor and evaluate both children and programmes across different settings. The Consultative Group has been interested and concerned about the use and development of indicators related to ECD for some time. Over the last year, five country case studies were undertaken in Namibia, Nepal, Jamaica, Philippines, Colombia in order to improve and build upon the two ECD-related indicators used in for the end of decade review. The case studies and the lead review article will be synthesised and published - along with other related work on ECD indicators - by the CG in its next Coordinator's Notebook. While Robert Myer's overall review article provided somewhat of a framework for each country, the process of developing and piloting indicators across the contexts differed.

    We believe there may be lessons for the broader EFA process from this initial work. For example, the work on reviewing, developing and (in some cases) field-testing indicators helped to provide a platform for useful discussions/debates around ECD (including across fields (health, education, social welfare) and stakeholders (government, civil society). The case study work also highlighted the need to build capacities within countries in order to carryout the development of appropriate indicators at country/sub-country levels and they highlighted critical issues (i.e., HIV/AIDs in Namibia) which required attention and work. The CG is hoping to undertake additional case studies across a wider range of countries/regions and also possibly do further work in some/all of the 5 original case study countries. This would enable the national-level cross-sector and stakeholder groups formed for this work to continue to meet and strengthen their work, encourage more/further implementation and testing of the indicators and advocate for changes in policies and programmes. The national, cross-sectoral group in the Philippines have already shared the results of their work on indicators at a recent ASEAN working group meeting where a number of countries expressed interest in undertaking similar work at national and sub/national levels both in the area of ECD and also for other areas of basic education.

    Some of our other agreed priorities within ECD for the future, which we hope to examine, explore and work on further include

  • HIV/AIDS and the impact on children, families, other caregivers.

  • Early literacy and family literacy efforts.

  • Conflict and post-conflict situations and the impact on young children and families

  • Street Children and other children living in difficult circumstances

  • 0-3 year olds: their care and development, child rearing practices, early brain development

  • The Children's Rights Convention: issues and follow-up for young children

  • Training and Capacity Building of ECD practitioners, programmers, researchers, organisations and policy makers

  • Quality delivery in ECD

  • Sustainability (of programmes, local ECD organisations)

  • These priorities were identified through the end of decade review and, most importantly, through feedback from our regional and agency partners who are working in a variety of contexts across countries. In some cases many of the CG regional and agency members are already programming, raising awareness and/or conducting research in one or more of the above areas (i.e., early literacy, CRC, training & capacity building). For areas such as HIV/AIDs or the development of appropriate and relevant indicators for ECD, the CG plans to review current practice and understanding and/or carry out new piloting and action research on particular topics with the leadership and involvement of some of our donor and regional partners.

    Proposed Actions

  • Synthesise, critically review and then share - in different forms - the lessons, findings, and impact from practice and research across regions. Specifically, the CG consortium is planning to focus its three upcoming Coordinator's Notebooks on the indicators work (described above), early and family literacy and HIV/AIDs. The CG website is being updated and we are looking at introducing on-line discussion groups for specific priority issues that can provide further inputs into other publications/dissemination activities.

  • Continue to strengthen regional networking, capacity-building, outreach and activities. This means widening the participation by government and civil society in CG work, research and policy advocacy. The range of CG partners should be used more effectively in terms of targeting different levels to impact quality and sustainability of ECD services and encourage better and more relevant development of policies.

  • Strengthen and/or establish more effective links with others working in health, social welfare, community development, adult literacy and basic education. We believe it is critical to promote a more diverse and creative range of ECCD activities that link different sectors, are more inclusive, and take into better account children and families needs and circumstances.

  • For the wider EFA Follow-up process: We would encourage those involved to undertake broad-based consultations with existing regional networks and activities where possible, including working with the CG's regional and agency partners.

    A copy of the discussions from the Dakar Strategy Session on ECD (in French or English) is available for those interested. Please contact Kathy Bartlett or Louise Zimanyi (Co-directors of the CG Secretariat) at