GoSL Plans to Expand Preprimary Education – WB

By Paneetha Ameresekere | Published: 2:00 AM Feb 22 2021
FT GoSL Plans to Expand Preprimary Education – WB

By Paneetha Ameresekere

Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is increasingly focused on expanding access to preprimary education, the World Bank (WB) recently said.

The WB, in two reports titled ‘Integrating Early Childhood Care and Education in Sri Lanka: From Global Evidence to National Action’ and ‘From Crèche to Classroom: Exploring Possibilities for Integration in Sri Lanka’s Early Years Services’, released on 23 October 2020 and dated 19 November 2020 respectively, said that in addition to preschools for children three to five years old, the Government is aspiring to expand childcare services for children, including for those under age three.

  According to the 2016 Early Childhood Development (ECD) census, only 19.8 per cent of ECD centres in Sri Lanka are Government operated. 

The majority, or 70.8 per cent of centres are privately operated, about 6.5 per cent of centres are run by religious entities and three per cent by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the WB reports said.

Meanwhile, since 2010, successive  governments have recognised early childhood care and education (ECCE) as a priority area for development and have undertaken several measures, the WB said.

With respect to integrating childcare and education, Sri Lanka has made some progress. The country has already adopted the strategies recommended by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) by creating an interdepartmental coordination body and appointing a lead ministry or agency.

And with the introduction of new regulations, the situation, vis-à-vis Sri Lanka’s policies on ECCE is slowly changing for the better, the WB said.

The need for training for teachers and caregivers who work with young children is also acknowledged. 

As the demand for training and qualifications grows, the country is likely to see an expansion of academic courses and professional training options in the early childhood field, the WB said. 

In this connection, steps are being taken to introduce standards to the childcare sector and to expand caregiver training. In 2016, the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) drafted a national vocational qualification (NVQ) Level 4 Curriculum for General Childcare which is intended for childcare providers and covers the zero-to-three age group, the WB reports said.

 The NCPA is collaborating with the National Apprenticeship and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA), the Vocational Training Authority (VTA) and the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) to make this programme accessible to childcare providers around the country.

 Although the recently introduced guidelines for daycare centres identify the NVQ Level 4 certification as a minimum standard for childcare providers, this regulation has not yet been properly enforced, the WB further said.

Nonetheless, in 2019 Sri Lanka reached a significant milestone in the ECE sector when the National Education Commission (NEC) finalised the country’s first National Policy on Preschool Education.

The significance of the National Policy on Preschool Education is that it overrides any provincial policies on preschool education and thereby introduces a higher level of authority to regulate and standardise preschool service provision across the country, the WB said.

Although steps are being taken to strengthen the implementation mechanism of the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Policy, issues with respect to policy coherence however remain, the WB reports said. 

These issues impede the legal authority of the Child Secretariat (CS). The logical next step would be to strengthen the policy and legal provisions and the enactment of a national act on ECCE. Although there has not been any concrete action in this regard, the need for a stronger legal foundation has been recognised in many forums and a national act on ECCD is in the pipeline, the WB however said. 

A Preschool Education Policy was tabled by the MoE and approved by the Cabinet in December 2019. A major reorganisation of the ECCE implementation structure is under way, the WB reports said.

Meanwhile, changes in ministerial mandates introduced following the August 2020 Parliamentary Elections have brought early childhood care and education (ECCE) under the purview of the Ministry of Education (MoE) for the first time, the WB said.

However, in the past, the lack of institutionalised roles and responsibilities regarding preschool education had been a major challenge to the provision of holistic and integrated services. But with the recent changes, it is anticipated that the MoE will take the lead in implementing early childhood education (ECE), the WB said.

In January 2020, the Cabinet approved a national Policy on Preschool Education tabled by the MoE. Following the Parliamentary elections in August 2020 and the reorganisation of ministerial mandates, ECCE was brought under the purview of the MoE and the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and Social Services (MWCASS) was named as the State Ministry of Women and Child Development, Preschool and Primary Education, School Infrastructure and Education Services (SMWCDPPESIES). Discussions surrounding the details of this reorganisation are currently underway, the WB said.

US$50 Million

Meanwhile, the US$ 50 million WB-funded ECD Project being implemented island-wide by the SMWCDPPESIES, aims to enhance equitable access to and improve the quality of ECCE services, the WB reports said.

 It seeks to do this by facilitating teacher training, improving facilities, devising assessments for child development, creating a common registration framework for ECD centres and introducing a management information system for ECCE services, among other activities.

The administrative reorganisation will provide Sri Lanka an ideal opportunity to assess the pros and cons of full or partial integration, and consider if and how aspects of integration can potentially help increase access to and quality of ‘early years’ services in the country, the WB said.

This is decisive period for Sri Lanka’s ECCE sector. With a committed Government, and development support in place, the time is ripe for progress, the WB further said.


Govt. to Formulate Preschool Policy-GL

By Paneetha Ameresekere

Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) plans to give pride of place to preschool education and in this connection it plans to formulate a preschool policy, was the feature of a discussion that took place under the aegis of Education Minister Professor (emeritus) G.L. Peiris at the University Grants Commission (UGC) Office on 19 November 2020, the Education Ministry reported the following day, 20 November 2020.

 Peiris, at a meeting with Professor Medagoda Abahyatissa Thera on this occasion, appointed a nine member committee chaired by the Thera to make improvements to the draft pertaining to primary education. In this connection, a final decision will be made on 11 December 2020 at a meeting presided over by the Minister, taking into account this committee’s recommendations, it said. 

However, Ministry officials told this reporter recently that this report is not yet ready. Abahyatissa Thera could not be immediately contacted for his comments. 

In related developments, the Performance Report of the then’ Ministry of Women, Child Affairs and Social Security for the year 2019’ and released on 20 November 2020 said that the National Policy on Early Childhood Care and Development received the Cabinet approval. 

Further, the Ministry opened daycare centres in areas such as Kegalle, Khatagasdigiliya and Medadumbara for preschool children in 2019 utilising a sum of Rs 21.25 million which had been allocated to strengthen the programme of daycare centres and evening care centres, it said. 

Similarly, provisions were released for 10 selected project proposals to carry out relevant development activities in respective villages in 2019 too under the programme which was initiated in 2018 for establishing joint child and women model villages. 

“Also, the Ministry ‘educated’ teachers of all ‘early childhood development centres’ in three District Secretary’s divisions vis-a-vis Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara in the Western Province in 2019 under the programme  in respect of introducing national standards of early childhood development,” the report added.

7,089 pre-school children

‘Early Childhood Development Project’ functioning under a US$ 50 million World Bank (WB) assistance programme accomplished plenty of tasks in 2019 too, including the strengthening, monitoring and follow-up process of physical and infrastructure development and human resource development in pre-schools and Early Childhood Development centres established all over the country and in particular in the estate sector,’ the Ministry report said.

 Under the above process, the Project provided teaching and learning materials to Early Childhood Development centres, trained pilot trainers and conducted short term in-service training sessions for pre-school teachers, the Ministry said.

 The project provides financial donations to pre-schoolchildren in low-income families during the period of their pre-school education, and 7,089 pre-school children were provided with donations in 2019, the report said. 

Further, it (the Project) took steps to identify ‘Early Childhood Development’ centres which do not have essential minimum facilities and extended financial assistance for their development, the Ministry report said. Accordingly, measures were taken to provide financial assistance to 1,668 centres in 2019, it added.

By Paneetha Ameresekere | Published: 2:00 AM Feb 22 2021

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