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Early Childhood in Time of Rapid Change

Date line: Lithuania

In Lithuania’s capital city Vilnius, over 300 early childhood experts, practitioners and policy makers met during ISSA Conference 2016-October 11-13. The conference was organized by ISSA.

ISSA- the International Step by Step Association serves as learning community and a champion for quality and equity for all children and their families, especially the most vulnerable. It is a successful learning community where members share their knowledge and work in order to develop best practices in Early Childhood Development (ECD). ISSA members are the leading experts in Early Childhood primarily from Europe and Central Asia and strive to remain the best informed and the most innovative specialists in the field.

Over the two and half days in Vilnius, the Conference heard from Keynote speakers including Dr. Nicolas Burnett from the Results for Development Institute, Dr. Lizbeth Goodman, of University College Dublin and representative of the Steering Committee involved in the newly released The Lancet series on Early Childhood Development. Alongside these esteemed professionals, ran an incredible 100 concurrent session based on the four conference themes:

  • Meaningful Learning for Children
  • Meaningful Preparation of the Workforce
  • Meaningful Support for Families and
  • Meaningful Use of Technologies.

The primary focus of the conference were the emerging trends in Early Childhood Development and how practitioners can be prepared, and prepare the children and families they work with, for a rapidly changing world.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) received significant attention with the focus being drawn to what has been achieved in the field of ECD and recognition of the challenges ahead, which Dr. Nicolas Burnett summed by saying “although we go in the right direction, we need speed and specificity”.

Bernadette Daelmans from World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health in Geneva, Switzerland illustrated how The Lancet series emphasizes the multi-sectoral care of 0-3-year-old children how these years are critically important in terms of nurturing, nutrition, health and welfare.

The concurrent sessions were varied, insightful and educational. Presented by colleagues from some of the 48 countries attending the Conference they dealt with matters such as:

  • “Growing up Together”: a workshops about parents of children with disabilities;
  • Live fast vs. Grow deep –How to support teachers effectively so they can independently respond to the changes taking place around us;
  • Assistive technology for reading interventions for learners with autism and intellectual disability

(A full list of abstracts from the Conference Sessions is available on ISSA website www.issa.nl)

ISSA’s member from Pakistan, Children's Global Network, which was represented by its Chief Executive and Founding Director Mehnaz Aziz, made a meaningful contribution to the event. Her level of engagement, through succinct questions and enthusiastic networking was exemplary to everyone involved. During her presentation, “Equipping Youth to become a Boom in ECED, rather than a Bust for the Nation” she unpacked how Parwaan’s Preschool -School Readiness Program is supporting the government of Pakistan in achieving SDG target 4.2. The Program provides quality ECD opportunities to about 72,000 children from the neglected 3–5 years age group, increasing the likelihood that they stay at school and succeed in the all-important first few years of primary education.

For the first time, ISSA’s 2016 Conference embraced new technology by delivering the Conference content on a smart phone App. This not only minimized the daily burden for participants, as the weighty amount of literature was minimized, but it also allowed the participants to connect and share their opinions and meet up in a convenient and relaxed fashion. Of the over 8,700 messages sent on the App during the conference, Children's Global Network, Mehnaz Aziz was by far the technologies’ busiest user!

Liana Ghent Executive Director ISSA

Noeleen O’ Hara Communication Officer ISSA

 

a. Sensitizing Education Caucus and parliamentarians to take up the cause of ECED:

One of the reasons why ECED is not able to make head way in Pakistan is that the political leadership and Policy makers are not aware of the significance of early childhood education and development. Parwaan organized meetings with the parliamentarians and gave them research-based presentation on the importance of early childhood education and development, brain development advantages and disadvantages of timely early years intervention. The members of the provincial assemblies during discussion shared that they did not know how important early years interventions are. They invited Parwaan to visit their constituencies and create awareness in the community. They also showed willingness to take the cause of early years education and development to the assemblies.

b. Professional Development of Teachers in ECED

To strengthen professional base of the future teachers in Early Childhood Education and Development, Parwaan Center of Excellence signed MOU with Allama Iqbal Open University to help their Early Childhood and Elementary Teachers Education Department in developing postgraduate diploma course of one-year duration and of 30 credit hours. Allama iqbal Open University has a greater geographic outreach- 1.3 million students. The courses will fill an important gap of the high demand amongst Pakistani students wishing to acquire technical education regarding Early Childhood Education and will equip them with the requisite expertise to implement this in their professional lives. The course has been introduced in the spring session 2016.

c. Advocacy through social media:

CGN-P ’s presence in the social media is very active. Latest National and International research or report related to early years’ education and development is regularly shared on face book and twitter. CGN-P’s monthly newsletter Parwaan is an important advocacy tool and has been successful in carrying out the message to large number of people.

d. A vibrant Network of ECED service providers:

CGN-P through Parwaan has a vibrant network of ECED service providers, which includes organization with immense experience in early years education are all willing to work in close coordination with CGN-P through Parwaan for the institutionalization of ECED in Pakistan.

e. CGN-P part of Parliamentary Task Force on SDGs:

CGN-P is a member of Parliamentary Task Force on SDGs and is a part of their work plan activities. Through this platform CGN-P is raising awareness of parliamentarians and equipping them to focus on ECED in their respective constituencies. In this context Ms. Mehnaz Aziz Chief Executive and Founding Director Children’s Global Network Pakistan gave a presentation on SDG-3 and SDG-4 to the members of Task Force. Through these awareness raising sessions capacity of SDG Secretariat members/National /Provincial Assembly SDGs Task Force is built so that they allocate some amount in their Annual Development Budgets.

f. Launch of Parwaan Pre-School Program from Parwaan’s Platform:

The launch of Parwaan Pre-School -A School Readiness Program from the platform of Parwaan was made possible because of the groundwork done under OSF grants. Parwaan pre-school caters to early year’s education and development needs of poor and marginalized children of age 3-5 years and building capacities of youth entrepreneurs to open up ECD centers in their respective communities.Around 72,000 children of the neglected age group 3 and 5 years will benefit in three provinces- Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan, FATA and Islamabad Capital Territory.

Parwaan through CGN-P has emerged from Pakistan's need to have a coordinating body on ECED that would raise awareness, implement innovative models, and bridge the gap between health and education for early years children. The activities undertaken by CGN-P through Parwaan are aimed at supporting the government in achieving its international commitments and to provide the best to the children of Pakistan.

As a recognised national body for ECED, Parwaan has helped initiate an innovative ECE intervention: the Parwaan Preschool programme, which caters to the ECED needs of young children and simultaneously creates income generation opportunities for young people, especially women, in marginalised areas. This three-year initiative aims to provide quality ECED opportunities to about 72,000 children aged three to five years across 30 low-performing districts in Punjab, KP, Balochistan, FATA and Islamabad Capital Territory. The programme has been designed to help the government achieve SDG target 4.2 and fulfil its international commitments on ECED.