Early Childhood Development in Bangladesh

Submitted by Mahmuda Akhter, ACEI Country Liaison, Bangladesh

The government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh pursued several early childhood development (ECD) initiatives in 2016. Non-government efforts complemented the government initiatives and helped achieve significant progress in this sector. Highlights of these ECD initiatives are presented below.

Strategic Operational Plan of Comprehensive Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Policy

The government approved the Strategic Operational and Implementation Plan of Comprehensive Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Policy in 2016. Bangladesh ECD Network (BEN) provided technical support to the UNICEF-assisted ELCD Project (Phase II) of Bangladesh Shishu Academy to develop the strategic operational and implementation plan. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA), as the leading ministry for implementation of the policy, is now in the process of forming a national council headed by the Prime Minister and a coordination committee that includes 15 ministry representatives and a technical committee comprising ECD experts and professionals.

Assessment of the Implementation of Pre-Primary Education

The future focus of Pre-Primary Education (PPE) provision in Bangladesh is to ensure a minimum standard of quality in all schools providing PPE and to focus attention on areas where education disparities are most extreme. A study has been conducted to better understand the progress that has been made to improve the quality of PPE in classroom. The study identified barriers and challenges, and has recommended appropriate adjustments to guide the next phase of implementation. The main objective of this study was to examine the extent to which the delivery of PPE in Bangladesh is achieving the Minimum Quality Service Delivery Standards (MQSDS), and to expand following an approved PPE Expansion Plan. The study analyzed data and information from the field to determine to what extent the implementation had followed the PPE Expansion plan, PPE Quality Service Delivery standards, and GO-NGO Collaboration guidelines. Moreover, the study has also come up with a specific way forward and recommendations for enhancing PPE services for future policymaking.

Content Validation of Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS)

Under the auspices of MoWCA, BEN facilitated participation of its member organizations in the development of an Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS) document for Bangladesh. Its purpose is to have a set of agreed-upon standards for guiding ECD programs and services. For validating its overall content, the document has been shared with and reviewed by professionals from different disciplines as well as the inter-ministerial working group. Major consultations have been conducted with parents and caregivers; teachers, supervisors, and front-line workers; professional experts; and in-depth reviewers with subject background. BEN has provided technical support in conducting content validation. The content of Validation of Early Learning and Development Standards (ELDS) will be translated into Bangla and the next step of age-specific validation will be conducted shortly.

Review of GO-NGO Collaboration guideline in the form of public private partnership for Universal Pre-Primary Education and review of Pre-primary education service delivery standards

Government as per education policy is highly committed to achieve universal Pre-Primary Education (PPE) in Bangladesh.  As such Director of Primary Education under Third Primary Education Development Program (PEDP-3) has started pre- primary. There are also substantial number of pre-primary schools run by NGOs, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Ministry of CHT Affairs, and private sector in the form of Kindergartens. Recognizing the effort of NGOs, other institutions and private sector, the government on the basis of the approved GO-NGO collaboration guideline also initiated some activities to create scopes for other actors to be involved in achieving quality universal PPE in Bangladesh.  Although there is a long way to go to achieve the goal, over last few years Bangladesh through all these efforts has made remarkable progress in Pre-Primary Education  

 Capacity Building initiative in Early Childhood Development (ECD)

The Institute of Child and Human Development (ICHD) has started implementing a program called “Early Brain Development Skill Enhancement Program” under the MoWCA. The main objective of the program is to build capacity of government officials and other relevant actors in early childhood care and development in order to create a foundation for the implementation of the Comprehensive Early Childhood Care and Development Policy, which was adopted in 2013 in Bangladesh. The main components under the program include the delivery of a short Foundation Course on ECCD, titled “How Children Learn,” and a short course on parenting education. The program will be implemented over three years at different levels—national, divisional/city corporation, and district levels. During the program period, about 1,075 government officials and other relevant actors will receive the short Foundation Course on ECCD and about 1,350 government officials and other relevant actors will receive the parenting education course.

Meanwhile, two national-level batches of the short Foundation Course on ECCD have been conducted in Dhaka and two divisional level batches have been conducted in Khulna. High-level officials from different ministries and departments participated in the course and experts in early childhood development facilitated. Under this program, a short course on parenting education has been designed based on the existing parenting education handbook and guidebook from MoWCA. This course has been planned to be delivered by a pool of expert trainers. Meanwhile, MoWCA has endorsed a trainers’ pool, which consists of 18 experienced trainers from both government and non-government sectors. 

National ECD Seminar in Bangladesh

Bangladesh ECD Network (BEN) organized a national ECD Seminar on 18 December 2016 in Dhaka. The theme of the national seminar was “Early Childhood Development in Bangladesh—Challenges and Opportunities in Light of the Sustainable Development Goals.” Since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the specific emphasis given to early childhood development for the first time in the global agenda, there are new challenges and opportunities for taking full advantage of the new prominence of ECD in global and national discourse.

Since the adoption of the Comprehensive Early Childhood Care and Development policy by Bangladesh in 2013, various initiatives have been taken to move policy implementation forward. It is necessary to keep this effort under the spotlight, to consider progress and challenges and chart the course for further action. With this end in view, the purpose of the 2016 Bangladesh ECD Network National Seminar was to bring stakeholders together, including MoWCA as the government focal point, other government agencies, other national and international actors, academics, researchers, and civil society. A brief paper appraising the situation and prospects for ECD in the framework of the SDGs was presented on behalf of BEN, to be followed by commentaries from invited speakers. In the second plenary session, the presentation and discussion will be related to ECD Service Implementation: Perspectives From the Field.

For more information:

Institute of Child and Human Development (ICHD): http://www.ichdbd.org/

Bangladesh ECD Network: http://www.ecd-bangladesh.net/

The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA): http://www.mowca.gov.bd/

Dziko Crews