Thursday, 21 July 2016

Transforming the lives of Indonesian children with Early Childhood Education

Students at KM 0 Early Childhood Care and Education Centre (ECCE) are facilitated by specially-trained teachers. (©UNICEF Indonesia/2016/Kinanti Pinta Karana)

A rare sound of children’s laughter can be heard at Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture where normally Government staff and their partners focus on developing and implementing education policies. A little girl carrying a doctor’s kit declares that she wants to be a pilot. “I also want to be a doctor, and a teacher,” she proudly tells the high-level delegation of officials from the Governments of Indonesia and New Zealand.

Around 30 children had gathered for the launch of a new Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (ECCE) on the morning of July 18, 2016, jointly run by the Government of Indonesia and UNICEF, with support from the New Zealand Government through a US$2.8 million contribution over a period of four years.

Designed to develop models for quality assurance of community-based ECCE, the programme will reach 7,400 children aged 3-6 years in 100 community-based early childhood centres in Kupang District, in East Nusa Tenggara during the pilot phase. The children will benefit from literacy programmes, play activities and a supportive learning environment. Their parents will be able to access parenting programmes about child care, nutrition and how to help their children get ahead in their learning at home. All in all, it will help the children to be better prepared for primary school - with the help of 200 specially trained facilitators. Once replicated at national level, the quality assurance mechanism will benefit 16 million 3-6 year olds every single year.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key interacts with students and teachers at the KM 0 Early Childhood Care and Education Centre (ECCE) (Photo Courtesy New Zealand Embassy/2016).

The programme is part of New Zealand’s aid commitment to Indonesia, the Wellington Government’s priority development partner outside the Pacific. “In New Zealand, we recognize the power of early childhood education (ECE). Our goal is to achieve a 98 percent coverage of ECE. We very much hit the target, and the 2 percent of children that probably don’t participate in an ECE programme, don’t go because their parents don’t want them to go, and we believe in choice. But what we do know is that youngsters that are able to enrol in ECE, outperform those that do not,” Prime Minister John Key said during the launch of the programme.

Research has shown that 90 percent of brain development takes place before the age of 5. Within the first 1,000 days of life, 1,000 brain cells connect every second. These connections are the building blocks of a child’s life. They help determine cognitive, emotional and social development. They help define a child’s capacity to learn, future success and future happiness.

“The ECCE programme is acknowledged as a critical input for laying the foundation for lifelong learning and development and also for optimum realization of a young child’s potentials. Young children need to be provided with opportunities and experiences through ECCE that lead to their overall development,” said Indonesia’s Minister of Education Anies Baswedan, adding his gratitude and acknowledgment to UNICEF for facilitating the collaboration between the Governments of Indonesia and New Zealand for the ECCE programme in Kupang District.

“Always when we play with children, when we talk and read even to the youngest ones, we stimulate their brain. Children who don’t get this sort of attention miss out on their ability to learn and grow to their full potential later in life,” said UNICEF Representative Gunilla Olsson.

UNICEF Indonesia Representative Gunilla Olsson (fourth from the left), New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Indonesian Minister of Education and Culture Anies Baswedan (fifth from the right) with other government officials and students of the KM 0 Early Childhood Care and Education Centre (Photo Courtesy Ministry of Education and Culture/2016/Jilan Rifai) 

She highlighted that early childhood development directly contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including the goals on universal education, eradication of poverty as well as on ending hunger, on ensuring healthy lives, on achieving gender equality, and on promoting decent work. “Early childhood education and development are also key to address the inter-generational transfer of poverty and disparity,” she said.

UNICEF has been supporting early childhood development and education programmes in Indonesia for years, providing advice and guidance to its Government and other partners to strengthen children’s readiness for school. In 2013, the Government of Indonesia issued a Presidential Decree as a policy framework for the implementation of Holistic Early Childhood Development, integrating early learning and stimulation with basic health services.  Both the central and local governments have been gradually increasing their investments in early childhood, and the Government plans to establish an early childhood education centre in every village across the country.  So far, most centres are run by civil society actors. Through the new ECCE programme, the Government aims to improve the quality of services provided by these centres.