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Pacific Regional Council for Early Childhood Care and Education (PRC4ECCE)

PRC4ECCE is an innovative regional Council, initiated by the Education Ministers of every Pacific Island Country for the benefit of Pacific Islands Countries. It is the only body in the Pacific that provides guidance on ECCE direction to countries, and monitors progress of ECCE in the region. The overall goal is to help children across the Pacific reach their full potential through investment in high quality and sustainable early childhood care and education (ECCE). The mission is to provide direction to national and regional level initiatives in high quality, inclusive and equitable ECCE programmes through effective coordination, sharing, dissemination, and use of relevant research, resources, and documented best practices.

Photo of Wendy Rich-Orloff
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The Pacific Regional Council for Early Childhood Care and Education (PRC4ECCE) was initially proposed as part of the Pacific Education Development Framework (PEDF) strategy to consolidate and coordinate educational development activities across Pacific Island countries. Establishment of PRC4ECCE was approved in 2010 During the Forum Education Ministers Meeting (FEdMM), and UNICEF Pacific was requested as Secretariat. A regional consultation meeting in 2011 drafted the strategic plan and terms of reference, with the primary purpose of PRC4ECCE defined as to contribute to and support the PEDF’s objectives of aligning national priorities and ECCE initiatives by developing a regional information management platform to integrate and synthesize existing information, as well as providing direction for future research and program activities.
 
PRC4ECCE has identified 5 suggested ‘system components’ which have been found to interact and comprise a quality ECCE framework: 1. Policy/Legislation & Governance; 2. Human Resources; 3. Curriculum, Child Assessment, and Environment; 4. Performance Monitoring and Assessment; and 5. Community Partnerships. These quality discussions ultimately resulted in the development of “Pacific Guidelines for the Development of National Quality Frameworks for ECCE”, the culmination of an extensive 2 years process with education representatives from 13 governments, academia, development and research partners, and regional donors across the region; this document was a significant achievement for the region in ECCE, and were recently endorsed by all Pacific Islands Education Ministers in Cook Islands during the FEdMM meeting in April 2014, signaling the interests and commitment of governments to improve ECCE as a sub-sector. These Guidelines support government in providing a multi-sector approach covering health, nutrition, child protection, positive parenting and water, sanitation and hygiene in order to provide quality services for children aged 3-5 years. It will provide children with an all-inclusive package to development: language, motor, culture, social-emotional, and thinking skills. 
 
As previously noted, UNICEF Pacific is Secretariat of PRC4ECCE. Council membership includes the following 13 Pacific Island Countries: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Advisory Group members consist of implementing partners, academia, development partners, ECCE specialists, government ministries and others identified by the Council as having a significant presence in the Pacific Islands region, and endorsed by the Executive Board.
 
During the recent yearly meeting in September 2014, PRC4ECCE committed to continued engagement in regional ECCE support and activities until 2017, with the following outcomes to achieve:
  • Advocating for high quality ECCE in the Pacific at national, regional, and global levels.
  • Creating an accessible knowledge management platform for information sharing
  • Developing a vibrant, dynamic research network in ECCE across the Pacific
  • Establishing effective mechanisms for sustaining the Council that will ensure commitment and ownership of countries across the region
  • Promoting the development of adaptation, and distribution of appropriate communication, learning and training resources to facilitate ECCE at community level.
A log frame with supporting outputs to achieve the above outcomes were developed, and a commitment was also made to work towards keeping ECCE on the regional Education Ministers’ agenda as a priority, maintaining and strengthening this pioneering regional approach to advance the access to and quality of ECCE services to the young children of the Pacific. One proposed research study in light of the post-2015 SDGs will look at financing options for the Pacific Islands Ministries of Education to support institutionalizing ECCE within their basic education system. PRC4ECCE will also monitor the process of quality improvement of ECCE across the region.
 
The challenge now is to move ahead to secure funding for identified activities as well as future sustainability. 

Attachments (1)

LAUNCHED_Pacific_Guidelines_for_the_Development_of_National_Quality_Frameworks_for_ECCE.pdf

These Guidelines provide a user-friendly model to explore ECCE as a complete sub-sector addressing Policy/Legislation; Human Resources; Curriculum, Child Assessment & Environment; M&E; and Community.

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Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Wendy,

Thanks for your post! It would be great to learn a little more about the challenges faced in early childhood care and education in the Pacific Islands. Not many of our community members hail from that part of the world and I'm sure that insights about early childhood in that geographical context would be inspiring for our community! Or, are there any successful programs in the region that you could share a little about?

Photo of Wendy Rich-Orloff

HI Chioma! One of the purposes of PRC4ECCE is to raise awareness for the Pacific Islands region. Most ECCE programs are community based and led; we are trying to raise government awareness of the importance of investing in ECD, as well as encouraging them to take more active roles in providing quality assurance and oversight. Each of the 13 countries has different challenges and are at different levels of ECCE systems building (existence of ECCE policy and whether it is being implemented, monitored; curriculum; teacher training; etc). It ranges from 1 country with a national ECCE curriculum and actively registering ECCE centers, with 3 certificate/diploma ECCE training options, to 1 country that has 225 centers that they know of, but only 46 have been visited by government and only 20 of those were registered. Challenges across the region include: poor funding; distance between islands, and access - for teachers to access training, for children and families to access services; the high cost of implementation (costs of travel for monitoring, cost of importing infrastructure and materials that cannot be sourced locally, even from provincial centers and the capitals). A big issue is also is climate change; since I arrived in 2012, off the top of my head Fiji had 2 cyclones and flooding in 2012 and flooding in 2013, Samoa had a cyclone and flooding in 2012, Tonga had a cyclone in 2013, Solomon Islands had an earthquake and small tsunami in 2013 and flooding in 2014; plus, Kiribati is dealing with severe overcrowding on their main islands while people have left the outer islands due to flooding and loss of land from sea rise. I could go on, but this is a little taste, and gives you an idea of the many vast challenges the region faces.
I am happy to answer any questions, provide any examples..... let me know what you would like me to comment/add!

Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Wendy,

Thank you for such a comprehensive answer! I'm especially drawn to two insights that you've shared:

First – people who provide support to parents also have needs that are going unmet. How might we support them?

Second – natural disasters and other circumstances outside of a family's control and that can apply to entire communities have the potential to make challenging situations even more difficult.

I'd love to hear any examples you have of programs or projects that addressed either of these two challenges! And, if you haven't heard of any, I'd love to have you share an Idea about how to tackle one of these challenges in our upcoming Ideas phase!

Photo of Wendy Rich-Orloff

HI Chioma,

Every country is different! For example, UNICEF will be developing children's books with key messages for parents and children to share together in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. One child care center in Suva, Fiji has "adopted" some squatter communities, and provides mobile kindy with them. UNICEF supported Tuvalu to translate some early reader books into vernacular and share with ECCE centers. A big challenge is access for teachers to professional development and training; there are some ideas brewing!

Regarding natural disasters, etc - ideally, we can support governments to provide infrastructure standards that are quality, resilient, yet also meet communities' needs; Federated States of Micronesia are drafting their policy revision, which includes 2 options for center structure and WASH facilities - meeting community and environmental needs (still in draft form). We have some ideas, but it is related to supporting minimum quality service standards, and funds for ongoing monitoring.

Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Wendy! Interesting there are so many examples of programs with books. Are literacy rates high in those areas? Or, have the books been adapted to accommodate differences in literacy? It would be interesting to know what the process output of adaptation looks like....

Photo of Wendy Rich-Orloff

HI Chioma, actually, quite the opposite! Early Grade Literacy is a huge issue in the region, with some Pacific Island countries struggling with literacy rates in primary, and very few books in mother tongue. The books I mentioned in the above comment are for activities happening this year and next, with the goal to bring some books in vernacular into ECCE centers and parents' hands where none currently exist. But, books in general, especially those in mother tongue and appropriate for ages 5 and under, are very rare. Especially in the more disadvantaged areas, the culture of oral language (as well as oral instruction) is strong, and one challenge is to share the value of books.

Photo of ufemia camaitoga

The ongoing conversation between Wendy and Chioma is really interesting and thought provoking. As shared during the council meeting, using photos of family activities e.g wedding, fishing trip , picnic etc to write a story which is in the context of the family and culturally relevant. Families can connect with the story, moreso children and as tested out by ECE teacher trainees whilst on practicum....stimulating and creative. Adaptation is good, and expensive so I find this cheaper, workable and ECE centres can quickly build up their story book collection. Try this out...I call it E-Book story because it was sent to me for editing by email and returned for printing and compiling.

Thanks,

ufemia