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Three System Design Committee Tasks

The impetus to take action in ECCE systems planning can come from higher levels of government, middle levels, or lower levels. It may come from within the national political context, a regional model within a country, or from the international context. It may come from outside of government or the political system altogether, such as from the children’s advocacy community, concerned citizens, or scholars within the higher education community. The push may very well have been building for some time from multiple points in multiple contexts within the broad systems architecture of ECCE. But once a determination has been made to pursue development of a comprehensive, integrated ECCE system, a multisector System Design Committee or SDC must form. At least at the beginning, an SDC may have formal or informal status, and may be appointed or composed of volunteers. The term “System Design Committee” is used here simply to denote its overall responsibility, but in practice its name will depend on who forms it and how it forms. Any term such as ECCE Planning Council or Steering Committee may be used. The term System Design Committee or SDC is used here generically as a catch-all for the collection of individuals from different sectors who are appointed or agree to collaborate in developing a systemic approach to ECCE.
Regardless of how it is formed, the SDC must meet two minimum requirements. First, it must be a working group focused principally on the design of an integrated, multi-sectoral ECCE system. Second, it must represent key stakeholders across all relevant areas of ECCE such as early childhood healthcare, nutrition, childcare, child protection and family services, and education. While dozens of countries have policies that create such ECCE-related committees, they do not intrinsically bring a systems approach, are not usually vertically integrated, and their actual results vary significantly (Vargas-Barón, 2015).
The work of the SDC begins with three major tasks.
Given that members of an SDC will represent expertise and viewpoints across ECCE areas of concern, one immediate task is to form a common reference point within what is already known. Often, professionals settle into what can be referred to as routine expertise in their fields (Carbonell, Stalmeijer et al. 2014). System design requires more. SDC members must exercise a form of adaptive expertise that enables them to function at sophisticated levels in areas outside of their specialization and cultural context. Osaka University’s Nobuhide Swamura (2002, 2004) has adopted the telling phrase “local spirit, global knowledge” to capture the juxtaposition of retaining the character of a local context and culture in development, while taking advantage of the knowledge created in related efforts worldwide. The ECCE SDC’s core identity is local, but it must add to its identity the status of learning community based on global knowledge resources.

We recommend five documents that fill in background knowledge, furnish important resources, and foster informed inventory analysis and system development. The references to this System Prototype also should be consulted wherever possible. These five documents are publicly available for download as a single file.

  • Investing Against Evidence: The Global State of Early Childhood Care and Education (UNESCO 2015)—This fourteen chapter overview of the status of and developments in ECCE across the world, summarizes the ECCE research base and policy rationale, provides a vision for a holistic multisector strategy, and seeks to motivate action based on the investment potential of ECCE.
  • Holistic Early Childhood Development Index (HECDI) Framework: A technical guide (UNESCO 2014)—This document provides a framework for an index that can be used to comprehensively describe the status of young children across the world. It suggests indicators to track progress, inform policies, and guide practices in ECCE.
  • A Toolkit for Measuring Early Childhood Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (Fernald, Prado et al. 2017) (World Bank)—Provides measurement resources for researchers, evaluators, and program administrators interested in assessing early childhood development for the purposes of planning and evaluating programs and services, monitoring development over time, or conducting situation analyses.
  • Nurturing care: Promoting early childhood development (Early Childhood Peace Consortium, The Lancet [partial reprint])— Describes a multisectoral ECCE approach via a series of intervention “packages” of programs and services for children and families at developmentally appropriate points in the early childhood age range.
  • Stepping up early childhood development: investing in young children for high returns. Identifies 25 key interventions from a multisector perspective (World Bank 2014)—Recommends 25 interventions grouped into five age-based integrated packages for an enhanced ECCE service delivery strategy. A set of guiding principles for their implementation is offered.

The second major task of the SDC is to carry out an inventory of all existing ECCE programs and services, whether they are sponsored by government, non-governmental organizations, or private entities. ECCE services have been categorized in various ways in the literature. This inventory adopts with modification the five categories appearing in (Britto, Lye et al. 2017): (1) health, (2) nutrition, (3) education, (4) child protection1, and (5) social protection2. It adds and treats as separate categories (6) family services3 and (7) childcare services4, simply for the pragmatic reason of recognizing their importance and ensuring that they not be lost to broad terminology. It is also noted and recognized in this schema that the seven categories overlap and are classified differently by organizations.
While these are indeed “categories” of services, they are more commonly referred to as “sectors,” a terminology also used in this System Prototype, but with reservation. The term “sector” reflects the reality that these services have been historically provided in isolation from each other. For example, health services are typically provided a “healthcare sector” which is overseen by a Ministry of Health. Similarly, education services have been delivered by an “education sector” which is overseen by a Ministry of Education. The unfortunate and unintended effect of this history of segmentation is that governmental and provider institutions have rarely built collaborative ties and interactions among each other vertically and across sectoral boundaries. Policies, financing, and laws have been developed that cement that isolation in the form of stratification and silos.
This is precisely what a “multisector” approach seeks to overcome. Incidentally, it should also be noted that while these are indeed categories of services and sectors of service provision, they are first and foremost areas of need of children. It is in all three senses of this terminology that the SDC will conduct an inventory. Finally, the inventory process will not just identify the services or programs themselves but will also identify the institutional actors, policies, laws, and financing arrangements that may need to change if Member States are to achieve a true ECCE system.
This inventory analysis and diagnosis process is detailed in the following section on page 12, but one of its key features is that SDC members contribute to inventories outside of their own specialization. The inventories consist largely of probes specific to domains that underpin ECCE. The overall process is similar to that involved in the General Education Quality Analysis Framework (GEQAF) (UNESCO 2012). The probes should take place with individuals who bring detailed knowledge about the area, but also individuals from outside, to create broader range of perspective, more fluid connections between areas, and greater mutual understandings.
After its grounding in the literature and after an in-depth analysis of the full scope of ECCE efforts and their context, the SDC must develop a strategic framework for the design of the proposed ECCE system. The strategic framework has four locally formulated components:

  • a) a vision of quality early childhood care and education for all that reflects national culture, context, and values;
  • b) the overall goals and objectives for the ECCE system,
  • c) a set of design principles, including the constraints under which the system can function; and
  • d) a process for indicators and measures development and collection that will operationally serve the multisector collaborations and interdependencies while also furnishing information necessary to yield iterative design improvements.

Education system

ibe ecce, infographic