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External Reviewers and Partner Countries Validate the IBE-UNESCO’s ECCE System Prototype

Compelling research evidence on the multiple benefits of holistic quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) to the individual child and to society is now commonplace. What remains rare is practical guidance on how to build and sustain resilient national ECCE systems; capable of equitable delivery of holistic and quality ECCE services to all children of the world. Due partially to scarcity of capable systems, progress in equitable provision of holistic and impactful ECCE services remains a challenge for many countries, especially for disadvantaged children who need these services the most.


In response, IBE-UNESCO launched an initiative to provide countries practical guidance on setting up and sustaining resilient national ECCE systems. Among others, the initiative included the development and application of an ECCE System Prototype. The Prototype has undergone developmental piloting in five countries, all of which are at different stages: The Republic of Seychelles, the Republic of Cameroon, the Republic of Rwanda, and Laos People’s Democratic Republic. Work in the latter four countries has financial support from Dubai Cares. Partner countries are also at different levels of piloting the Holistic Early Childhood Development Index (HECDI), whose indicators were jointly selected by a large base of stakeholders working initially under the technical leadership of UNESCO HQ.


From December 9 and 10, 2019, in Reggio Emilia, Italy, IBE-UNESCO convened a Forum of partner countries and external reviewers to validate the ECCE System Prototype and to share their experiences in applying the HECDI.  Each country delegation comprised senior experts from sectors that contribute to effective delivery of ECCE services. A high point of the Forum was that the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) of the Kingdom of Eswatini, Mr. Themba Masuku led his country’s eight-person delegation (inclusive). Quite befitting given that all children’s affairs in Eswatini fall under the DPM’s office, signaling the level of attention the country accords children’s early holistic development and wellbeing.  Prof. Keiichi Ogawa (University of Kobe, Japan), Prof. Guang Zhang (North West University, China) and Doctor Ina Linden (Municipality of Boras, Sweden) served as external reviewers.


Another highlight was the very venue of the Forum Reggio Emilia’s which is as symbolic as it is substantive. For years, the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education inspired ECCE programs across the world. Its guiding principles remain pertinent:

·  Children are capable to construct their own learning,

·  Children are collaborators and learn through interaction within their communities,

·  Children are natural communicators and should be encouraged to express themselves however they feel they can,

·  The classroom environment acts as the third teacher,

·  Teachers are partners, nurturers, and guides who help facilitate the exploration of children’s interests as they work on short and long-term projects, and

·  Documentation is a critical component of communication.


Partner countries’ delegations learned a lot from interacting with the teaching and administrative staff of Reggio Emilia. They learned even more from interacting with the children.


H.E. the Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Eswatini Mr. Themba Masuku officially opened the Forum. Mayor Luca Vecchi of Reggio Emilia and Director Mmantsetsa Marope of IBE-UNESCO also contributed opening remarks, with the President of Reggio Emilia Municipal Preschools, and IBE-UNESCO Senior Fellow for ECCE, Mr. Cristian Fabbi  presiding as the Master of Ceremony and Lead Specialist for the whole initiative.


In the magnificent Sala del Tricolore, the IBE Director, Dr. Mmantsetsa Marope shared with an audience of political leaders, foundations, private sector, civil society, partner countries, external reviewers, eminent ECCE specialists, and supporters profound reasons why ECCE is one of IBE-UNESCO’s flagship programs. She reiterated the much-documented benefits of holistic quality ECCE; highlighting why these benefits resonate with UNESCO’s core mandate which is to promote peace; as well as with national and global development, and the global equity imperative implied in SDGs.


She shared evidence, of the slow global progress towards equitable provision of holistic quality ECCE services to all children of 0-8 years of age. She underscored that the sluggish progress stands to undermine all aspects of individual, national and global development which depend heavily on a high threshold of well-prepared human resources. “That is because impactful ECCE is an inescapable entry-point toward effective human resources development, and towards severing the vicious cycle of intergenerational disadvantage”; said Dr. Marope.


The Forum concluded with a provisional validation of the ECCE System Prototype; pending the integration of feedback provided by the Forum and a provisional validation of the current draft HECDI; pending substantial changes suggested by the Forum.