» Early childhood education key to meeting future challenges, says Malaysia’s Education Minister
17.10.2016 - Education Sector

Early childhood education key to meeting future challenges, says Malaysia’s Education Minister

© Ministry of Education Malaysia

Malaysian Minister of Education Mr Mahdzir Khalid enjoyed a first-hand look at how the French early childhood system works when he visited an ‘ecole maternelle’ (pre-school) in Paris on 10 October 2016.

Mr Khalid, who was taking part in UNESCO’s Executive Board, visited the Ecole Maternelle Publique Alleray in Paris where he spent time with three different classes of children aged between 3 and 5 and later exchanged ideas with staff and representative from the French education system.

Mr Khalid later spoke to UNESCO about the crucial importance of early childhood education and his country’s many efforts to boost its quality and reach. 

“The world today is facing new challenges in terms of quality, equity, durability, sustainability and inclusivity. We need to equip our children with knowledge and appropriate skills to face new challenges in future.”

“If we get it right from the start, that is the early years, we know that children will thrive throughout school and their adult lives,” he said.  

The Minister said Malaysia faced particular challenges with more than 20 ethnicities making up its population of 31 million and some of these living in very rural and remote areas.

“In our country, early childhood education has an important role to play in better promoting understanding and cooperation among different population groups, and preventing negative effects of poverty and disadvantage on children’s learning and development.”

The country began providing early childhood care and education in the 1970s and in 2010 new initiatives were introduced to improve quality through the National Key Result Area, part of the Government Transformation Programme, work which was continued in the Malaysian National Education Blueprint 2013-2025 elaborated with the support of UNESCO.

Initiatives aligned with global education agenda

He said the involvement of parents, the larger community and the private sector had been vital in providing quality preschool to tertiary level schooling. The latest initiatives were developed in line with the wider global education agenda.

“The great thing is that the Blueprint and SDG4 are completely aligned. They both aspire to provide quality education for all,” he said.

He said ensuring equity and quality had been the main objective of the government. With government agencies, the private sector and NGOs working together access to ECCE had been provided to 85 per cent of children aged 4 and 5 plus.

One of the country’s most successful early childhood education programmes is the Permata Negara, founded in 2007 as part of the overall Permata scheme (the word means jewel and the slogan of the scheme is ‘Each child is precious’) spearheaded by H.E. Rosmah Mansor, wife of the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The Permata Negara targets children below age 4 of low-income and rural families who otherwise do not have access to quality early childhood education. The holistic curriculum developed through the Permata Negara is central to the provision of quality care and learning in 5531 Permata Negara centres, and was endorsed as the National Preschool Standard-based Curriculum by the government in 2008.

With regard to teachers the government had committed to ensuring that all ECCE educators had a diploma by 2020. Other special areas of focus were Technical and Vocational Education and Training.

“Our approach to education is holistic and lifelong, and equipping young people with the necessary skills for the modern world is extremely important.”

Malaysia’s strong commitment and leadership in ECCE was marked by its hosting of the second Asia-Pacific Regional Policy Forum on Early Childhood: Innovations for Inclusivity and Quality with Commitments to Learning from Birth and the Transformative Power of Early Childhood in July 2016. In line with the Putrajaya Declaration 2016, signed by ministers and delegates from 36 countries, he stressed the importance for every country to have endorsed early childhood policies, a policy roadmap based on regularly collected data and evidence, strategies for high-quality programmes, and enforced coordination among stakeholders.

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