Establishing a Regional Early childhood Care and Education Training Centre
The Director General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova signed an agreement with the Syrian Arab Republic for establishing a regional training centre in the field of early childhood care and education. This agreement was officially signed during Bokova’s recent visit to the Syrian Arab Republic (22—25 April 2010) whereupon the latter was represented by its Minister of Education Mr. Ali Saad.
This centre aims to strengthen national and regional capacity building initiatives for developing and improving the field of early childhood care and education (ECCE) in the Arab Region. It is also noteworthy that this training centre is the first of its kind in the Arab States, and it targets regional influential policy makers in different relevant ministries as well as teachers, trainers and practitioners who work in this field.
The total population in the Arab Region is approximately 312 millions and the average growth rate is 2 % as compared to a global rate of 1.1 % annually. Significantly, the number of children under five years of age constitutes 14 % of the total population. Thus, specialized experts pinpointed that there is an imperative need for initiating ECCE programmes in the region to respond to the various needs of children who are still under the age of schooling and who represent a large segment of Arab countries. Regional Statistics illustrate that thirteen Arab countries provide available data pertaining to ECCE, and only seven out of these countries have ECCE programmes that target children who are less than 3 years of age.
The “Dakar Framework for Education for All” (2000) accentuated the importance of ECCE in national and regional educational policies and plans. It also stressed the objective of “spreading and improving ECCE programmes so that they especially reach marginalized and vulnerable children”, knowing that this objective was the first among the six Education for All (EFA) objectives.
The "35th General UNESCO Conference" which was held in Headquarters in October 2009 came up with a recommendation which aims to fill the gap in this field in the Arab Region, especially that there are no official training institutions which offer capacity-building programmes and activities (similar to the anticipated services that the aforementioned regional centre will offer) in the Arab States.
The abovementioned regional centre has an independent legal status since it is “an independent non-profit educational institution” that works within the legal framework of the host country (i.e. the Syrian Arab Republic). This centre will be managed by a board composed of representatives from Member States which demonstrated keen concern to join this board in addition to a delegate representing the UNESCO Director General, and this Administrative Board will be headed by the Minister of Education in the host country.
This regional training centre will offer four kinds of activities:
· Training on policy making in a way that facilitates in-service training opportunities and awareness about developmental issues.
· Teacher training that aims to fortify the capacity-building skills of ECCE teachers and practitioners while prioritizing teachers who are specialized in early childhood education for the upcoming two or three years (other beneficiaries will be targeted at later phases).
· Facilitating the acquisition of technical and professional skills pertaining to educational policies and issues (in Arabic) in addition to building and strengthening the capacities of ECCE teachers in the Arab Region.
· Training on applied research via evidence-based and critical-thinking analytical activities, with emphasis on the special needs of the Arab States.
It is worth noting that the Syrian Government covered all the expenses of establishing this training centre, including the premises, facilities, equipment, maintenance and furniture. The centre was upgraded to regional status due to cooperation and technical support from UNESCO Beirut and in-kind contribution from AGFUND.
A model kindergarten will also be initiated inside the centre and will be managed by a specialized team of academic and administrative staff in addition to ECCE experts.