to changes in the demographic, economic, social and political
contexts noted earlier, a host of more immediate changes affecting
ECCD were noted in country reports and by knowledgeable people
These include changes in:
and its dissemination: the conceptual base and scientific
base available to be drawn upon and the formation of communication
and awareness of political leaders, funders, planners and
the population at large about the importance of ECCD and its
in policies and in legal and legislative frameworks for programming,
internationally and nationally;
availability of resources, both financial and human;
bases, strengthened and consolidated, both governmental and
Changing Knowledge Base and Conceptual Shifts. The most
frequently mentioned advance in knowledge related to ECCD
during the 1990s was an advance in understanding how the brain
develops and functions. To many survey respondents, it was
clear that new discoveries in neuroscience and their dissemination
through scientific, professional and popular channels has
had an important influence on the demand for, and the willingness
to consider support for, early childhood education and development
with some frequency was a growing body of knowledge coming
from research studies and programme evaluations showing long-term
benefits of early intervention programmes for children at
risk (Karoly 1998; Boocock and Barnett, 1998; Schweinhart,
et.al., 1994). It is now possible to point to longitudinal
studies in various countries of the Majority World as well
as studies in Europe, the United States and elsewhere in the
Minority World, that show clearly how ECCD programmes can
have effects on children in primary school. A prime example
of such Majority World research is the excellent work done
in Turkey in which children cared for in different settings,
and whose mothers participated in a parental education programme,
were shown to benefit later on. (Kagicibasi 1996; Bekman 1998)
These studies have helped to convince policy makers and programmers
of the value of investing in ECCD. They reinforce the Jomtien
commitment to including early education within basic education.
new avenues of research that are beginning to influence practice
include studies of: "resilience" (Luthar, Cicchetti and Becker
forthcoming), conditions under which programs can have a negative
affect on child development (see work of Kathy Sylva at the
London Institute of Education), and childrearing practices
and patterns (Consultative Group 1994).
of conceptual shifts that seem to be "in process" were also
noted by survey respondents. For instance:
a behaviourist model that is not very "child friendly" still
holds sway in some countries, there has been a shift toward
active learning and toward the constructivist ideas of Piaget.
Even more, although the ideas of Piaget have had a strong
influence on early childhood curricula and practices, particularly
in the Majority World and in Latin America, a shift has been
noted toward programs based on the thinking of Vygotsky. While
not contradicting Piaget, Vygotsky places greater emphasis
on social and cultural influences that affect all aspects
of children's development (as contrasted with emphasis on
individual discovery) and gives renewed importance to the
role of the teacher and to the place of language in the teaching/learning
process (Berk and Winsler 1995).
influence of and ecological and transactional models that
gained prominence in the 1980s continues to provide a basis
for complementary approaches to ECCD that work toward changing
the family, community and broader institutional and cultural
environments with which a child interacts in the process of
developing and learning.
search for "best practices" which took flight in the 1980s
continues, but the chorus of those who question the search
for universals and the base for best practices in developmental
psychology has grown ever louder (Woodhead, 1996). Additional
importance is being attached to discovering, respecting, and
incorporating cultural differences into thinking about how
early childhood education and care "should" occur. (Penn,
1999) Viewpoints grounded in anthropology, sociology, ethics
and other fields are being brought to bear on the field, highlighting
the need to begin with the cultural and social definitions
of childhood and education held by those who are the participants
in early childhood programmes rather than with a pre-determined
set of definitions and models imposed from "outside." (Dahlberg,
Moss and Pence 1999) This tendency is consistent with a strand
of thinking about social and economic development that is
grounded in local participation, and in "putting the first
last." (Chambers 1997)
The search for "best" practices need not be a search for practices
that will be everywhere the same although that seems to be
the implication. What is thought to be "best" or "most effective"
must be defined in terms of some set of values and these values
will differ. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and
other international conventions provide general frameworks
that attempt to capture a set of shared values. For example,
various conventions, including the Rights of the Child, indicate
that there should be no discrimination on the basis of gender.
Nevertheless, certain forms of discrimination against women
and girls are embedded in the value system of some cultures,
creating a conflict between local values and "international"
values that needs to be resolved. Another authority to which
international advocates appeal and which is sometimes at odds
with local cultural values, is Western science. For instance,
Western research seems to show that physical punishment has
detrimental affects on children, yet many cultures accept
and even recommend physical punishment, feeling that in a
cruel and unjust world it is the strong who survive.
and overcome inevitable tensions between international and
local expressions of what "should be" a third path has been
evolving in which:
search for "best" practices begins by looking for and supporting
those practices that are valued both in terms of traditional
wisdom based on experience and in terms of their scientific
2. A process
is established in which points of difference are handled through
dialogue, values are made explicit and knowledge from both
traditional wisdom and from recent scientific discoveries
is presented and openly discussed. In such a dialogue, the
Minority World or its local representatives should seek to
learn from as well as impose its views.
can lead to understanding of the legitimate bases for different
practices. It helps narrow or conciliate apparent differences
and sometimes even validate them in new ways. For instance,
many indigenous childrearing and teaching practices, which
may not be similar to Western practices are nevertheless being
validated by recent neuroscience research because they effectively
stimulate the child. A process of dialogue and reflection
helps to identify changing circumstances that may require
changes in practices and opens up the possibility of incorporating
new knowledge and new practices into childrearing that are
seen as valuable from inside cultures as they seek their adjustments
to a changing and ever more inter-related world, without,
however, violating the process of honoring and constructing
with the above, new knowledge and support for conceptual shifts
is emerging also from experience on the ground within a host
of new programmes that have appeared during the decade, many
still small in coverage and conceived as experiments. Increasingly,
however, programmes have been "going to scale" and, in the
process, providing knowledge about how that can happen when
programmes grow big and about what kinds of results may be
expected under different conditions. During the decade more
evaluations of, and systematic reflections about, ECCD project
and programme experiences have appeared than in the past.
More generally, however, evaluation has not been made an integral
and continuous part of the ECCD programme process.
in the survey of knowledgeable people were asked to indicate
examples of programmes or projects they thought to be "effective"
and to indicate why they thought these were effective. Appendix
2 presents an analysis of the responses to this question.
In addition, as part of collecting information for writing
this paper, a host of publications were received describing
projects that have, in one way or another been deemed to be
successful, innovative, effective.
these examples, the following conclusions can be drawn:
is no lack of examples of programmes that are considered effective
. 2. The
reasons why programmes are considered effective are extremely
diverse, some related directly to their effects on children,
families and communities, some related to the characteristics
of the programmes themselves, and some related to the prevailing
conditions that facilitated or permitted success.
options are mentioned including: centre and home based programmes;
governmental, NGO, and community initiatives; formal, nonformal
and informal programs; child, family, and community-focused
programmes; programmes using the mass media; programmes attached
to health and/or nutrition initiatives; transition programmes;
toy libraries; work-related care; action research projects;
training and capacity-building programmes; programmes for
displaced children; advocacy efforts; etc.
programmes are effective for a time but lose their effectiveness,
suggesting the need for a constant process of renewal.
respondents to the survey labelled as tendencies or "advances"
conceptual shifts directly related to the manner in which
planning, programming and implementing organisations are going
about their task of moving knowledge into action. For instance,
mention was made of:
to set ECCD programming within broader frameworks such as
poverty alleviation or the need for a new citizenry as transitions
to democracy occur or to problems of street children or criminal
behaviour as well as to performance in school;
acceptance of the idea that development is "holistic" and
integral programming cutting across sectoral lines;
- A tendency
to think more in terms of programmes that prevent delayed
or debilitated development, as contrasted with programmes
focussed on "compensating" for these problems once they occur.
air also is a conceptual shift in how governments see their
role, with a tendency to shift at least some of the burden
of providing services from government to the marketplace through
"privatisation." Such a shift, although at an early stage,
is being harshly questioned by some who see this as a way
for governments to avoid their responsibility.
for action created internationally seem to be helping people
to shift their paradigms of thinking and action as well. The
conceptual frame provided at Jomtien by the inclusion of the
phrase "Learning begins at birth", was cited by several of
the people surveyed as providing an important base for action.
In some circles, the Convention on the Rights of the Child
has begun to bring about shifts in the way ECCD programmes
are conceptualised, beginning more from a universal "rights"
perspective and less from a "needs" perspective which tends
to be associated more directly with focussed or "targeted"
of respondents noted advances in our knowledge base, but added
qualifying statements. For instance, a few respondents said
they thought current claims are exaggerated. From their perspective
the tendency to justify ECCD investments in terms of long-term
economic benefits was seen as resting, still, on a weak base,
both because economic outcomes are only a part of the picture
and because the research to date seems to involve creative
but questionable premises as well as some leaps of faith when
interpreting results. This seemed particularly so when applied
to settings with a high level of poverty. These respondents
felt that although ECCD may help in a modest way to alleviate
some aspects of poverty, hailing it as the means to get out
from under poverty seems exaggerated and might even be distracting
us from more fundamental questions about what causes poverty.
scepticism provides us with a useful reminder that there is
much to be done to provide an even firmer base for action
even as the considerable knowledge base we have is drawn upon
to create and improve ECCD programmes. It also reminds us
that although there is increasingly strong evidence that programmes
of early education and development can have important and
lasting effects on children and are a good investment, it
is well to be humble with respect to our expectations in the
short run and it is well to maintain a broad perspective on
what needs to be done to overcome the conditions that lead
to delayed and debilitated development.
in the knowledge base was seen both as an advance and as a
condition that has permitted other advances in the field.
However, new knowledge will not have much impact on actions
if it is not disseminated widely (and/or to those knowledge
brokers who help to move research results and theoretical
advances from paper into practice). Accordingly, various respondents
noted as an advance the increases in publications, the "construction
of knowledge in fora", and the growth of knowledge networks.
However, despite these advances, several respondents lamented
the fact that new knowledge does not seem to transfer into
changes in policies or programming, that the dissemination
process seems to be slow and deficient, and that the strategies
for reaching policy makers and planners as well as the general
public are often inappropriate.
in the attitudes and awareness of political leaders, funders,
planners and the population at large about the importance
of ECCD and its potential benefits. Closely related to the
growth of a knowledge base and to its dissemination as well
as to conceptual shifts noted above is the advance that was
most often mentioned by respondents to the survey: an increased
awareness of the importance of ECCD. Awareness, or "consciousness"
was seen to have improved within both governments and civil
society, and among policy-makers and intellectuals, in relation
to: 1) the importance of early childhood care and education
(and particularly of the earliest years), 2) what early childhood
development is and 3) how to go about fostering it.
excerpts from responses received to the survey of knowledgeable
people indicate how the importance of ECCD was expressed.
"ECCD is on the agenda". "There is an increased awareness."
"The need to invest is recognised." "ECCD is seen as of benefit
to all." "Organisations and donors recognise the need to intervene."
"The international community and national governments have
been brought into ECCD." "Children are increasingly being
seen as 'core business.'
this advance in awareness includes, and is linked to, broader
changes such as "an awareness of children's rights" or a "globally
felt concern and responsibility for marginalised children"
or a "greater sensitivity to the need to take cultural differences
into account." "ECCD has emerged as a key field of social
and educational development." "ECCD is seen as a springboard
for development activities.
saw the new awareness in terms of how early childhood development
is conceived with, for instance, "greater acceptance that
a child is not an 'incomplete being' but thinks and feels"
or of the idea that we must take a "holistic view" and deal
with the "indivisible needs" of a "whole child" or the "need
to involve children actively.
" In more
than one case, the most important advance in awareness noted
was linked to the idea that "learning begins at birth" and/or
of the "importance of ages 0 to 2" or of "the youngest children."
A new appreciation of the importance of the ideas of "attachment"
and "bonding" was mentioned. In some of the above, the recognition
of the importance of the early years was explicitly linked
to a growing "realisation that the family has a pivotal role
new levels and kinds of awareness bring with them specific
implications for programming that, according to some respondents,
now seem to be more widely accepted and practised. These will
be presented below when dealing with advances that were noted
in the approaches being taken to programming within ECCD.
improvements in the knowledge base and in awareness were often
mentioned as an advance and as a condition that has permitted
or fostered progress in the ECCD field, at the same time a
lack of knowledge and/or "a lack of political will" seem to
be recurrent complaints registered by survey respondents and
in ECCD documents from various countries and/or regions.
in policies and in legal and legislative frameworks for programming,
internationally and nationally. Country reports and survey
respondents often noted specific changes in laws, the development
of policies and the explicit inclusion of ECCD in national
plans as advances in the field of ECCD. In some countries,
major educational reforms occurred of which early childhood
education was a part. This was particularly true, of necessity,
in former Soviet bloc nations which, with independence, had
to set about re-constructing their educational systems.
of new regulatory legislation were mentioned. Various countries
have either lowered the age of entrance into primary school,
thereby giving what was one year of pre-school a new obligatory
status, or, have legally declared one or more years of early
education to be obligatory (in several Latin American countries).
New policy statements have been issued in several countries;
India is a prime example (Kaul 1999). In Africa, new policies
have appeared in at least 10 countries (S. Africa, Namibia,
Kenya, Mauritius, Ghana, Nigeria, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe,
Malawi). In the Caribbean, a regional plan of action has been
jointly approved and is moving into an operational phase.
same time, the lack of good and comprehensive laws and policies,
particularly for children under 3, characterises too many
countries notwithstanding efforts in several Eastern European
countries to strengthen policies with respect to the earliest
years by extending maternal (and sometimes paternal) leaves
and providing or increasing cash subsidies to families with
young children. (This seems to be part of a policy shift returning
the primary responsibility for child rearing to the family.)
survey respondents mentioned specifically a need for better
laws governing the growing number of independent private ECCD
was, as well, considerable criticism of some of the broader
governmental economic adjustment policies that affect ECCD
indirectly and are often linked to international agency policies.
in the availability of financial resources. Interestingly,
while few of the people surveyed pointed directly to lack
of funding as a barrier to advance in the ECCD field, there
is a widespread feeling that the field is under-funded, that
public financial support is low and unstable, and that the
lack of resources is an important problem. Although information
is incomplete, it is possible to provide information to support
or counter this feeling.
the 1980s and at the outset of the present decade, financing
within the international community for projects related to
young children was focussed on survival, and, more specifically
on health and nutrition. Guided by a consortium of donors
(The Bellagio Group) and by the energetic promotion efforts
of a Child Survival Revolution by UNICEF and the World Health
Organisation, major lending agencies, bi-lateral organisations,
major Foundations and the larger international NGOs emphasised
immunisation, oral rehydration, feeding, and other actions
that were directed primarily at reducing infant and child
mortality rates. Very little attention was given to child
development. Donors seemed to accept the half truth that attending
to health and nutrition would automatically benefit mental,
social and psychological development.
beginning of the decade, the Bernard van Leer Foundation,
was the only international institution with a history of consistent
and significant support to early childhood development programmes
located within the Majority World. That assistance was provided
primarily within a child centred, community-based development
framework. UNICEF, because of its decentralised nature, also
managed to fund a variety of projects through its field offices,
but without much support from the centre (despite a position
paper on the subject produced in 1985). Other organisations
provided sporadic assistance for isolated projects. In general,
the available financing was for pilot or demonstration projects,
often with a training component included.
educational assistance was seldom provided for pre-school
or child development projects but was concentrated increasingly
on primary schooling, representing a shift from an earlier
tendency to favour support for university development.
the 1990s, however, the picture began to change. Indeed, there
is no doubt that the overall level of international financing
available for ECCD has increased a great deal since 1990.
The change was driven by a certain level of success with child
survival programs leading to a need to respond to the question,
"Survival for what?" as well as by a search for something
new. It was driven also by the changing knowledge base mentioned
earlier, by a shift in demand related both to a desire to
prepare children better for school and to the increasing labour
force participation of women, and by international advocacy
efforts. Both the Jomtien Declaration and the Convention on
the Rights of the Child provided new frameworks for attending
to children and brought pressure to bear on signers to provide
greater attention to children defined more broadly than in
health and nutritional terms.
jump in available ECCD funding occurred within the World Bank.
Table 3 presents summary data on World-Bank loan funds, amounting
to almost one billion dollars, provided to support ECCD projects
during the decade. The reader will notice that these loan
funds have been concentrated on Latin America and Asia, with
only about 7% of the total (70 million dollars) destined for
3 projects in Africa.