By Margaret Okai & Anthony Kwaku Amoah
What is Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD)?
Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) is a holistic approach to the implementation of policies and programmes for promoting the growth and development of children between zero and eight years of age. As Care, in this context, refers to the provision of special services for effective child growth, Development is a process of change in which the child is helped to gain mastery of crucial life activities, such as movement, thinking, feeling and interaction with people and objects in his or her physical environment.
ECCD, therefore, features major issues of the child’s life, including health, nutrition, education, protection and sanitation for better life.
Policies and programmes of ECCD
Government, in its efforts to provide the needed environment for children to access essential ECCD services, developed the ECCD policy, which was launched in August 2004.
The rationale behind the ECCD policy is to provide a framework for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to meaningfully contribute to the growth, development and survival of the child. It also enhances the collaboration between MDAs and stakeholders in providing integrated and well-coordinated services for the optimum development of the child. In 2012, a Government White Paper was released to redefine the initial nine-year Basic Education programme to include two years of kindergarten (KG) education making it eleven years of basic school education so as to promote proper management and transition of the child. As a country, we have been able to successfully mainstream our KG school system with the basic school education as part of the recommendations of the Dakar World Forum for Education and the Millennium Development Goals. The provisions of the Education Strategic Plan (2010-2020) also support the prioritisation, expansion and improvement in the delivery of ECCD services. GES, in July 2011, embarked on a process of developing an operational plan to scale up the quality of KG education in the country where learning activities and processes were mostly participatory, collaborative and interactive with the participation of a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including our foreign donors. The operational plan lays out a Ghanaian pedagogy and a new vision for KG education with emphasis on activity-based learning. The vision of KG education is driven by the new pedagogy, which is based on the teacher’s understanding of how the child develops and learns. It is appropriate to also state that this new development of child education and training calls for an enhanced approach to the implementation and use of the current curriculum and assessment tools so as to make the system more manageable, effective and relevant. Achievements There is an increase in basic school enrollment with a total of 1,766,715 pupils at KG as against 1,199,967 pupils in 2011/2012. In 2014/2015, the gross and net enrollment rates at KG were 128.8% and 82.7% respectively with a Gender Parity Index (GPI) of 1.04. There has been a rise in the number of KGs. The total number of KGs stood at 18,915 in 2011/2012 compared to the current figure of about 20,960. We have also had an exponential increase in the number of trained teachers of KG with a total of 42,417 in 2011/2012 as against the current figure of 52,007 teachers. Accelerated training programmes for KG teachers and caregivers are being run with a huge number of untrained teachers and caregivers having been trained and certificated so far. Series of campaigns on the importance of KG education and age appropriateness of enrollment are also being organised at the community, district and regional levels of the country. Creation of awareness on the policy of Inclusive Education is ongoing in communities, districts and regions with ancillary facilities under the Child-friendly School concept. As part of ECCD service-extension and pre-service training programmes, the University of Cape Coast and University of Education (Winneba) currently offer certificate, diploma, degree and even post-graduate courses in Early Childhood Education. Seven out of the 38 public colleges of education have also been running various courses in Early Childhood Education. The National Nursery Teacher’s Training Centre also conducts training programmes to build the capacity of teachers of KG children with In-service Education and Training (INSET) programmes also being operationalised to focus on effective KG teaching methodology. A five-year Quality Operational KG Plan aimed at scaling up the quality of KG education service delivery has been developed with their assessment tools also being reviewed. As we speak, a process has been initiated to review the KG curriculum to focus on literacy, numeracy, creative arts and play. A National Steering Committee for ECCD has, therefore, been established to fast-track this review process. Teaching and learning materials on National Literacy Acceleration Programme (NALAP) have been properly developed to help teachers teach children effectively in their “mother tongue”. GES has also been working hard with stakeholders to develop, implement and monitor basic guidelines for
Conclusion KG education gives children the best start in life. It has the potential of producing a positive and lasting effect on the child. It is, therefore, necessary for all of us to support the implementation of all policies and programmes on KG education for the benefit of the child and the nation. The writers are the Head of the Early Childhood Unit and a Public Relations Officer respectively of Ghana Education Service