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Developing the systems strategy

ECCE provision is usually scattered across different actors (Marope and Kaga, ed., 2015). A number of ministries and departments at provincial, district and community level are generally involved in ECCE: basic education, higher education and training for early learning; employment, social affairs for care services, and child social protection; health, environment, quality of life for mother and child health, survival, nutrition, water and sanitation; women empowerment, children rights, justice for legal protection. Ministries and departments of plan, finance, local development, participate in the coordination of ECCE policies and strategies, and the budgetary allocation. Statistical offices are in charge of collecting data to monitor and evaluate policies’ implementation and impact. Furthermore, in most of countries, where governmental-led ECCE services are limited, chambers of commerce, which represent private owners, and corporations, are key implementing partners. NGOs, community based and religious organizations, professional associations, academia, and, ultimately, parents, are also fully involved in ECCE.

None of these different actors might accomplish the holistic development of the child, in all his/her areas of cognitive, socio-emotional, physical growth, by working in isolation. If actors work incoherently and without connecting each others, the ECCE provision will be dysfunctional, resulting on a fragmented experience for children and parents, far from being holistic, resilient and effective. As a result, the lack of a systemic perspective is the major constrain undermining efforts to boost access, quality and equity ECCE at global level. It is not the consequence of chronic budgetary deficit of most countries, which limits the national spending towards social welfare, but rather the cause. Countries with high national incomes are not necessarily those with largest and better ECCE provision. It is the awareness about the necessity of working as a system, rather than in isolation in order to effectively promote the holistic development of the child, which makes the real difference in ECCE. A system can be defined as a corpus of institutions, actors, rules, mechanism, processes, practices, working as one to achieve a common set of goals.

Education System

ibe ecce, infographic

A functioning system is paramount to have effective, sustainable, resilient ECCE.

Effective, as ECCE systems enable to provide children with a continuous stimulation throughout ages, and in all areas of development. Acquisition of children’s skills and abilities spans over the period from birth to eight years of age, following a continuous trajectory (UNESCO, 2002). As a result, programmes and services provided to children in order to support their holistic development must be considered as well in continuity, from preparation for pregnancy and prenatal services to early stimulation, and learning, transition to primary school. Continuity entails high level of interactions among staff from different services, as well as of learning and development contents among programmes, with a common system of monitoring and evaluation. These elements are also essential to strengthen the quality of ECCE provision (Evans, 2000).

Sustainable, as a clear framework of action avoid overlapping, lack of responsibilities, duplication of provision of programmes and services, and ultimately expenditures. As an example, food supplements are essential for the development of children’s motor and fine skills. However, food supplements delivered in preschools, especially in most marginalized areas, are also a key intervention to stimulate children’s enrolment, which also increase quality of learning, and has positive effects on the development of children’s cognitive abilities. On the other hand, the delivery of food supplements through education services can minimize costs for health sector, enable to track, children, identify gaps and plan solutions. The same can be affirmed for vaccinations, development and health checks, as well as legal protection procedures and other early interventions. Another valid example is the implementation of social benefits schemes in the form of monetary transfers for poor families, which include certain conditions for their young children, for instance to enrol in pre-primary education, monitor health, nutrition, and learning progresses. These schemes reduce the financial burden of parents, while also incentivize the participation of children in ECCE programmes and services, especially in countries where services are mostly private.

Resilient, because increasing performances lead to build a sense of ownership among policy makers, staff, parents, enabling to overcome political, social, and economic turnouts in the country while also guaranteeing the cultural appropriateness of interventions.

The value added for actors to work in a systemic perspective by integrating their interventions, is demonstrated by countries which have established well-structured systems and the benefits in terms of effectiveness of the delivery. In these countries, expansion of ECCE programmes and services has been consistent, coping with the emphasis on quality of provision, as well as equity.