There are several institutions and agencies that have an interest in promoting ECD and sharing information about best practices and knowledge.
UNESCO, as the lead UN agency for education, monitors progress towards the Education for All targets, including the fi rst, which is directly applicable to ECD. The 2007 Global Monitoring Report (GMR) focused on ECD and in addition, UNESCO publishes a bimonthly policy brief on Early Childhood on its website at www.unesco.org/education/earlychildhood/brief.
The ADEA Working Group on Early Childhood Development (WGECD) was formed in 1997 under the leadership of UNICEF. In 1998 leadership was taken over by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Chairmanship of the Group was transferred to the UNESCO Regional Offi ce for Africa in Dakar in November 2007. It is planned that the secretariat will be taken over by the Save the Children (USA) regional offi ce in Nairobi.
The Working Group’s mandate is governed by the following principles:
- All aspects of a child’s development are interdependent and of equal importance (holistic approach);
- The critical stage of ECD begins before birth and continues into the early years of formal schooling
- ECD interventions respect the practices and cultural beliefs that are part of the development of children in each society
- National government commitment is essential for the development and expansion of ECD policies. Distinctive and cross-sectoral policies supporting holistic ECD are likely to be the most effective
WGECD is building a network of national groups, individuals and agencies in Africa that are interested in ECD. Details can be found at www.ecdafrica.com which lists the countries that have set up national networks, (for example Tanzania) and national focal points. Linking up with the national focal points is one way of linking into the national expertise and experience about early childhood.
The Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development has been in existence since 1984 and has focused on bringing together actors (international agencies, foundations, individuals and organizations, etc.) with an interest in ECD.
The main activities include:
- The regular dissemination of a “Coordinators’ Notebook” comprising a focused article and related case studies to over 3,000 individuals, networks and organizations;
- Maintenance of a website, www.ecdgroup.com;
- The development of a CD-ROM on ECCD for use by development professionals, program planners, trainers, policymakers and child advocates.
- Development of advocacy materials and information briefs like the ‘4
The Consultative Group has an annual general meeting for information exchange and discussion of current substantive issues. It also makes presentations at important meetings and conferences related to education and children’s rights.
The Early Childhood Development Virtual University (ECDVU) provided capacity building and leadership development in ECD through face-to-face and distributed learning methods including: residential seminars, web-based instruction, CD-Rom and print material support, and a ‘community of learners’ strategy within and among cohort countries. The ECDVU courses are fully accredited and are part
of the School of Child and Youth Care, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
The Bernard van Leer Foundation (http://www.bernardvanleer.org/) funds, and shares knowledge about, work in early childhood development. Working with other organizations, this Netherlands agency aims to develop and support programs thatcreate signifi cant positive change for socially and economically disadvantaged children up to the age of 8 to enable them to reach their full potential.
In their grant making, they would like to focus on work and thought that is bold, innovative and experimental. They publish (in hard copy and electronically) working papers, a journal called Early Childhood Matters, and a series called Early Childhood in Focus. “Online Outreach” is a web-based publication series for rapid dissemination.
UNICEF has a continuing and strong interest in ECD (www.unicef.org/earlychildhood/). Their website includes numerous resources, notably the recently issued second edition of the ECD Resource Pack. The Pack can be downloaded in modules and combines advocacy arguments with experiences, exercises and information that can be used to develop skills and understand programming for young children in
development and emergency situations.
Other agencies committed to the welfare of young children include the World Health Organisation (www.who.int), the Aga Khan Foundation, th Save the Children Alliance, the Christian Children’s Fund, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (USA) and the Open Society Institute.