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Early Childhood Education Forum highlights achievements and future needs

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ECE websiteHa Noi, 20 May 2014 – UNICEF, together with the World Bank, Plan Viet Nam and other development partners, co-hosted a forum today to share experiences on how to improve the quality of Early Childhood Education (ECE) in Vietnam and to make policy recommendations to promote quality ECE in Viet Nam.

“Prime time” for development
ECE focuses on the importance of the first years in a child’s life, its “prime time for development”, when it establishes the cognitive, emotional and social foundation upon which it will build its future. ECE supports children to reach their full development and fostering their motivation and ability to learn at different stages of early childhood, including pre-primary and early primary years. UNICEF supports projects to improve young children’s capacity to develop and learn, and to ensure that educational environments provide the tools they need to flourish.

Long-term initiative
Today’s ECE forum in Ha Noi is a follow-up of last year’s regional Policy forum on ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) in Seoul, which was organized in September 2013 to provide a platform for high-level policy-makers of Asia-Pacific countries to share knowledge and discuss strategies with a view to improving young children’s “readiness to learn”.

Among the 150 participants at the forum in Ha Noi today were the Ministry of Education and Training, related agencies at central level, such as Women Uniton, World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO, Viet Nam Women’s Union, Plan Viet Nam, Save the children, World Vision, VVOB, along with teachers and representatives from 30 provinces.

Progress and challenges
In her opening speech, World Bank Country Director Victoria Kwakwa said Viet Nam has made some great progress; it achieved universal primary education and is moving towards universal lower secondary education. But “Viet Nam needs to further improve the quality and relevance of its education to meet the demand of a growing economy”, adding that figures show “universal pre-school education was stagnating at 44.6% in 2012 and only 7 provinces have achieved universalized 5-year old preschool education”.

The supply and quality for early childhood care needs to be improved: children under 3 represent 22.7% of the population and they lack of Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers. Viet Nam should tackle inequality in education access and quality persisting among different regions and disadvantaged groups, in particular ethnic minority children, and young children who are living with disabilities, HIV and are prone to disaster and climate change. “Comprehensive investment into ECE across Vietnam will help the country narrow the development gap among regions and tackle exclusion and inequality”, Kwakwa said.

Sustainability
During the forum, participants held in-depth discussions and shared experiences about the role of families and the community in child care and early childhood education development activities. They acknowledged the important role of family and community in taking care of children and mobilizing local policy makers to make projects sustainable.

Limited resources
Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Thi Nghia commented on the limited resources of the Vietnamese Government for ECE, suggesting not relying on the state budget alone. She urged different organizations should join hands to improve the quality of ECE and stressed the importance of participation of family, community, other stakeholders and the private sector.

Because of the current lack of funding, more practical measures could do the trick, such as creating models for best practices to be applied in different localities and training key teachers, who then go to the provinces to train other colleagues.

Teachers’ key role
Apart from ensuring the sustainability of the projects, another key element for the success of the quality ECE is the role of the teacher. World Bank expert Dr. Wendy Jarvie considered the interaction between teachers and children as the most important factor in education; therefore, equipping teachers with practical skills to have effective interaction with children learning  is crucial.

Vice Minister Nghia mentioned big challenges lie ahead. The determining factor is competence of the teachers. They need better guidance in their professional development, bilingual training and awareness of cultural sensitivities. Also, the curriculum and future training of teachers at the local level needs to be adapted and made more accessible. To make these changes possible and take the hurdle in the legal framework, administration and teachers need to work together.

More information?
Please contact UNICEF Viet Nam Chief of Education Section This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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