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Ensuring the quality of early education is critical for laying the foundation for the learning and development of all children in the region. The Regional Agenda for Integrated Early Childhood Development prioritizes the goal of achieving quality in early education. The second agreement of this Agenda calls on all countries to “strengthen efforts to achieve high-quality, relevant, timely, and comprehensive services targeted to reaching children in early childhood in the environments in which their lives unfold” and identifies the need to establish “quality assurance systems for governmental and non-governmental services for this population based on the expected holistic development of children.”
With the participation of Ministry and early education agencies representatives, experts and members of civil society and cooperation organizations, the Regional Forum on Quality in Early Education met virtually from May to July 2020 to agree upon common strategies and recommendations for attaining the objective of quality in early childhood education, as called for in the Regional Agenda.
Eight recommendations emerged from an intense process of dialogue and analysis of the experiences of the different countries in the region and the best available evidence. These recommendations are targeted not only to governments but also to the diverse actors involved at the national, local and regional levels in the creation and implementation of policies and programs for child development.
The Forum called on all the countries of the region to make sure there is a permanent participatory space with joint responsibility for setting and implementing an Agenda for Quality Early Childhood Education. This Agenda should consider a broad and relevant vision for quality in young children’s education, taking stock of the relationship between learning and holistic development, with emphasis on both structural and process quality.
In order to create such a vision for quality, countries can build upon a series of non-negotiables of Early Childhood Education (ECE) identified during the Forum. These non-negotiables include recognizing early childhood as a life stage with its own identity; guaranteeing relationships of care, love and protection in the educational space; and recognizing the critical role of learning through play to promote children’s holistic development.
Making this vision a reality will require the development of quality assurance systems, including a governance structure or an intersectoral collective body entrusted with quality assurance whose principal functions include designing quality standards for the provision of services that make it possible to guarantee equal learning opportunities that promote the holistic development of all children.
Quality assurance also demands that countries in the region develop mechanisms to institutionalize the measurement of the quality of early childhood education services. They need to develop a competency framework for those who work with children in early childhood, promoting a continuous and flexible system for training – both pre-service and in-service – and for certification of competencies that strengthens performance.
The Forum also considered it necessary to strengthen the systems and mechanisms for intersectoral work in each sector to promote and strengthen their shared responsibility for child development. Countries also need to generate and promote processes of social, cultural, and political mobilization in the various countries aimed at recognizing and dignifying the role of educators and caregivers who work with young children.
Finally, the Forum called on international organizations, governments in the region, academics, and civil society members to create a space for regional coordination and dialogue to help share knowledge and adopt frames of reference that inform public policies in the countries with the aim of ensuring quality services and reducing inequalities in early childhood.
We are excited about the progress made so far and for the journey ahead. Our organizations are committed to supporting this regional space, as well as the coalitions in favor of quality in early childhood education in each of the countries of the region.
ONLINE EVENT: Towards Quality Early Childhood Education – Results of the Regional Forum
On Wednesday, October 7, 2020 the Dialogue convened a webinar alongside the LEGO Foundation and Centro de Estudios Primera Infancia (CEPI) to present the Declaration of the Regional Forum: Towards Quality Early Childhood Education. This virtual panel featured Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, Sarah Bouchie, vicepresident-head of Global Programs at LEGO Foundation, Ana María Nieto, early childhood specialist at LEGO Foundation, Jaime Saavedra, global director of education at the World Bank and Ariel Fiszbein, director of the education program at Inter-American Dialogue.