OECS Member States consider new instrument to monitor Early Childhood Development Centres

Castries, Saint Lucia — The OECS Commission is to facilitate discussions among Early Childhood Coordinators/Directors/Education Officers towards adopting a proposed instrument for routine monitoring of Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres.

The discussions towards finalizing and adopting a harmonized instrument for routine monitoring of Early Childhood Development Centres will take place in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis from May 26-28th 2014.

The routine monitoring instrument seeks to assist with achieving, improving and maintaining the quality of early childhood services for young children and their families. This proposed secondary instrument for routine monitoring will be used to inform the primary document called The OECS Monitoring Checklist for Early Childhood Centres, which has been adopted by Member States since 2010.

During this meeting a regional perspective will be presented on the quality of ECD settings based on findings from Quality Assessment Surveys undertaken over the last five years. This will provide a springboard for discussion leading to agreement on a regional instrument.

The Regional Technical Meeting is expected to provide feedback on the draft instrument to more effectively monitor the region’s ECD Centres. There will also be a pilot testing of the new instrument at randomly selected ECD centers. Participants will also use this forum to develop country specific Monitoring Plans. This forum is part of the OECS Commission’s Education Development Management Unit’s efforts to strengthen administrative data systems of schools including Early Childhood Development Centres and to increase access to quality Early Childhood Services. The adoption of an instrument for routine monitoring will result in better monitoring of ECD services and an improvement in the quality of service through the adherence of established standards.

The OECS Commission’s Education Development Management Unit (EDMU) has embarked on the implementation of a new OECS Education Sector Strategy (OESS). “Improving the Quality of Early Childhood Education” is one of the imperatives of this plan. In view of this, the EDMU and representatives from Member States and from the UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Area Office have sought to define “quality” in that context. A working team comprising Early Childhood Development Coordinators in the OECS has developed a draft instrument for monitoring with a focus on key aspects defining “quality.”

In seeking to improve the quality of early childhood settings, Ministries of Education through support from UNICEF, are undertaking an assessment of Early Childhood Development Centres using the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS). This assessment provides comparable data and baselines on the quality of ECD settings. To date, a number of centers across OECS have been assessed. Quality Assessment surveys will soon be conducted in the British Virgin Islands and Grenada. The OECS EDMU is hoping to begin discussions during the forum in Basseterre and Charlestown on early screening and interventions, as this is part of quality access.

The OECS Education Development Management Unit says there is empirical data which suggests that early childhood interventions will eventually reduce the cost for addressing social problems. Experts further believe that effective Early Childhood Development programmes will turn out competitive and marketable individuals with quality citizenship skills and good work ethics.

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