Access, equity and quality are the three interwoven issues in early childhood care and education across the globe. Although contexts may differ – economically, politically and socially, we all aim to provide an education that will empower children and families both in the near and far future.
The UNESCO is an advocate of programmes that endeavour to promote health and nutrition, security and learning as primary components to the holistic development of every child to reach their fullest potential. In terms of access and equity, it is deemed important that policies are geared towards alleviating the unequal opportunities for the underprivileged and poor while ensuring the education must be targeted for all children. There are some examples of measures taken by governments in different countries to demonstrate the impact of pro-poor initiatives. The Decision No. 161 of Vietnam focuses on the Preschool Education Development. There are four categories of early childhood services in the country. These are state, when families do not pay any fees; semi-state, when some fees are paid by families, but the government provides subsidy; and the people founded and private services that are non-public but are guided by the government in terms of providing standards on how to establish buildings and infrastructure, staffing and pedagogy and monitoring and evaluating of performances. Teachers, who are believed to be at the forefront of delivering quality programs are given job security. Through the pro-poor and pro-teacher measures in Vietnam, the government can tackle issues of access and equality. Meanwhile, E-9 countries, high-density population, composed of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Brazil, Mexico, India, China, Nigeria, Egypt, and Indonesia convene every two years to discuss and monitor early childhood education initiatives. From discussions, they unravel indicators of inequity brought about either by unequal distribution of resources or poor public investment on education.
Quality goes hand in hand with access. Components of quality vary from place to place. It includes the ratio of children and adults in he program, professional qualification of program staff and the availability of resources. The OECD notes the guidelines and standards provided for parents, educators and administrators as the basis for programmes to operate. Accordingly,
“the aim is to encourage a shared sense of purpose between parents and early childhood centres; to promote social and cultural values important for society; to ensure a certain unity of standards; and to inform and facilitate communication between staff, parents and children (OECD, 2004).
The standards of quality programs in developing countries may not be closely comparable to developed nations, but there are ways to achieve quality if local families, and educators can mobilize to explore resources that are available for use. As well, training can be strengthened to guide families and educators in communities to achieve quality.
Access, equity, and quality can not be delivered without enough resources. Thus, investments and funding are essential in addressing these issues. The OECD provides examples of how different countries are creatively raising fund. The Payroll Taxes for Child Development in Colombia is one model on how to raise revenues without putting the burden on the common populace. By mandating all private and public institutions to deposit three percent of their payroll to the Colombian Institute for FamilyWelfare (ICBF), income is generated to pay for direct services for children. Singapore, on the other hand, has established their partnerships with non-public institutions in managing early childhood programs. By privatizing the operation of early childhood programs, the government does not have to manage to fund for salaries of staff, the establishment of buildings and their maintenance. However, when needed, the government provides capital support to convert buildings. Support is directly given to families who need assistance to pay for the program services. The government remains responsible for issuing licenses and ensuring that quality is maintained. It is also a requirement to employ staff who have specific credentials, to maintain quality. This model is established based on an economy that is already well-developed.
The models and strategies provided by the OECD from different countries whether developed or not are manifestations that the issues of access, equity, quality and funding can be creatively addressed as long as there are policies that support the populace at different levels, an awareness of the available resources and how they can be utilised, and cooperative efforts from all the stakeholders in the community.
UNESCO. (n.d.). Education. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/ strengthening-education-systems/early-childhood/