In Pakistan, only 8.6 million children are availing ECCE services where under 5 population stands at 22 million. Education, health and nutrition departments in Pakistan work in isolation ignoring the benefits of a holistic approach to early childhood development. Similarly, early child interventions by the private and development sector are also scattered. In conclusion, the early childhood sector in Pakistan remains fragmented and incoherent in its approach towards expanding access, training, curriculum and financing of ECCE based on a national policy. In order to develop an integrated approach to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), The ECD Network of Pakistan (ECDNP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training and development partners held the first national conference on early childhood care and education (ECCE) in Pakistan at Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad. Parwaan was actively engaged as one of the partners of the conference where President Parwaan Ms. Mehnaz Akber Aziz highlighted the contributions of Parwaan to the development of ECCE in Pakistan.
The major purpose of the National Conference on early childhood is to bring together local and international experts and practitioners to provide a platform for sharing experiences and highlighting the early childhood needs in Pakistan. The conference will identify and recommend strategies and actions to consolidate and expand ECCE services in the country.
In more specific terms, the national conference aims to achieve the following major objectives:
- To bring all the stakeholders to one forum and instill the sense of networking
- To review the current status of early childhood in Pakistan and chart a future direction for the growth of ECCE
- To create a forum to share and learn best practices and experiences, disseminate research, and promote collaboration
- To create a universal understanding and consensus amongst various stakeholders regarding the practice of early childhood in Pakistan
- To agree on a common definition of ECD/ECCE, which will help bringing children below age 3 into the focus who remain neglected
Around 300 delegates including research scholars, practitioners, teachers, students and dignitaries from the government and development sector attended the conference over the two days. The conference included an inaugural and closing session, plenary, breakout sessions and social events. Concurrent sessions were organized to cover the theme, Envisioning Holistic Early Childhood Care and Education for Pakistan Creating an Equitable, Pluralistic and Sustainable Society’ and related sub-themes of the conference. A total of 42 research papers were shared by different researchers across Pakistan which aimed to sensitize the conference participants on significance of integrated approach toward ECCE and also identify areas that require attention.
President Parwaan Ms. Mehnaz Akber Aziz chaired a plenary session on advocacy, awareness-raising and social mobilization for ECCE whereas the Parwaan team displayed a stall showcasing some of the items from Parwaan's school readiness kits including books and various manipulatives.
The plenary discussions resulted in the following recommendations by various ECCE experts and academia:
- Come up with a consensus to formalize one definition of early year’s interventions for Pakistan that is Early Childhood Care and Education.
- Revise national curriculum for ECCE.
- Develop syllabus for ECCE in consultation with all relevant organizations.
- Initiate thought process towards intersectoral collaboration and joint efforts for provision of quality early years learning opportunities to children 0-8 year.
- Advocate and share provincial education departments ECE initiatives with national stakeholder.
- Civil society to share their contribution, programmes and models on ECCE for replication.
- AIOU also showed their commitment to organize ECCE conference annually and to establish National Centre of Excellence on ECCE at AIOU.
Parwaan is committed to being a part of an integrated network of ECCE experts; academia, private sector and public sector. Parwaan continues to contribute to holistic development of 3-5 years children through an inclusive approach, sensitize parents on ECCE cross cutting themes through weekly Parwaan Pakistan radio programme and community awareness sessions, and set a trajectory for long-term prosperity of the country by providing ECCE services at community level. In light of the need for an integrated approack to the provision of ECCE services in Pakistan, Parwaan is working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional training, Prime Minister's Educations Reform with whom Parwaan is implementing the Parwaan Montessori Programme in Islamabad, and a cohort of ECCE experts and organizations through its Interprovincial Technical Advisory Group (IPTAG). Therefore, the first national conference on ECCE is just the beginning of Parwaan's and Pakistan's efforts to envision and implement an integrated approach for ECCE services in Pakistan.