Educationists, policy makers, NGO representatives gathered here on Thursday to share their views on the importance of early childhood development initiatives and to highlight and appreciate the commitment of those involved in providing educational access to the marginalised children.
The seminar on early childhood education (ECE) was organised by the Sindh Education Foundation (SEF) to discuss child education and to showcase the progress and achievements attained by its early learning programme (ELP).
The ELP works on enhancing the physical and learning environment of 150 government schools with special focus on Katchi (KG), grade one and two, and its effect over 10,000 children, teachers, parents, caregivers and communities. The seminar focused on the challenges and achievements of the programme at the grassroots level and deliberated upon how to improve the quality of learning and teaching during the early years.
The event hosted panelists such as Baela Raza Jamil (Director Programmes, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi), Dr Almina Pardhan (Associate Professor, Institute for Educational Development, Aga Khan University), Dr Shahida Mohiuddin (Associate Professor, Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board), Mariam Shera (Principal, Froebel Education Centre), Mahenaz Mahmud (Advisor, Teachers’ Resource Centre), Amima Sayeed (Senior Manager Advocacy and Programme Development Teachers’ Resource Centre), Abdullah Khan (Head of ECD Bridges Rupani Foundation) and Prof Anita Ghulam Ali (Managing Director, Sindh Education Foundation).
Prof Anita Ghulam Ali (MD, SEF) said it was essential to focus on the children for the nation to progress and a lot more needs to be done in this area. She said there might be a focus on the youth but children in particular were not emphasised upon.
Prof Anita stated that early childhood is a crucial stage in an individual’s life and the failure to invest in ECD can result in development delay and disability as well as inhibit the optimal development and performance of children throughout their lives. Mahenaz Mahmud stated that it was essential to provide a positive learning environment where children would want to participate, learn and grow.
She said the teachers should make sure to listen to the children and interact with them in their activities which would build up their self-esteem and confidence.
She stated they should focus on developmentally appropriate practices that focus on the children’s needs. Mariam Shera said that it was vital that they as professionals share our good practices to better the education sector.
She said the child development begins as early as home schooling, the nursery and it is a crucial period in one’s life with regards to development. She said children are born to learn and it is essential to foster their curiosity, learning and not stifle it. Mariam stated that children who are encouraged at an early age perform better during the later years. She said ensuring effective ECE teacher and parent training is very important. Dr Shahida Mohiuddin said that progress on early years learning in the country is quite slow. She stated that all children deserve a good start to life, therefore we cannot ignore the early years which start from birth to 8 years of age. Dr Shahida said it is important that children be exposed to facets of their indigenous culture and focus should be given to the mother tongue for effective stimulation of the mind.
Dr Almina Pardhan said experiences during the early years such as health care, nutrition and education are what shapes early childhood development. She stated that AKU-IED is strongly committed to ECD and had implemented various initiatives in this regard and stated that these include teacher education, research, material development, capacity building, consultancy and service activities.
Baela Jamil said Pakistan has faced its share of emergencies such as natural disasters which had left many people displaced.
She said that ITA designed a comprehensive multi-sectoral community-based programme informed by ASER 2010 results that catered to children affected by the 2010 floods to help alleviate the situation. She stated that multi-stakeholder partnership with the parents, teachers and community is the key in Early Childhood Development. She also emphasised that there is a dire need for an ECD policy on the national level.
Abdullah Khan said that the early childhood education is an important tool in combating poverty. He said there had been many examples where areas with scarce resources had progressed once the education rate had been increased. He stated the development of the child should be initiated even before birth and is done in the pre-natal stage. The ECD initiatives should be encouraged and promoted in the mainstream to ensure awareness, he said.