On 22nd September 2021, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) through its Inter-Country Quality Node on Early Childhood Development (ICQN-ECD) and in collaboration with Together for Early Childhood Evidence, hosted a 2-hour webinar on Early Childhood Education (ECE) Quality Assurance Systems (QAS) for Africa with about 90 participants drawn from 32 countries and partner organisations.
Even though much progress has been made in Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Africa, with several African countries developing relevant policies and implementing programmes with donor and international support, Quality assurance systems (QAS) remains a critical issue as it helps to ensure children in ECE have an optimal experience that helps them develop and learn.
In her welcoming remarks, Mrs. Maya Soonarane, ADEA ICQN-ECD Coordinator, highlighted the need for organizing such events to facilitate experience sharing, learning and updates about the QAS that are being implemented by various countries in Africa. The guest of honour Mrs. Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, Hon. Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Education in Mauritius then called on all ECE stakeholders to increase their commitment in providing quality assurance and standardization of ECE. She highlighted how the private sector had a “huge share” in the provision of ECE and the need for the state to be more involved not only in developing quality standards but also monitoring and tracking their effective application by all ECD Stakeholders.
Steps to develop a quality assurance system and level of adoption in African countries
Mrs. Kate Anderson, Project lead for DeliverEd at the Education Commission, presented the guide on ECE QAS for Africa and Dr. Abbie Raikes, Director of Global Early Childhood Development at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and founder of ECD Measure, shared a summary of country survey results on ECE QAS.
Mrs Anderson reinforced Mrs. Leela Devi’s argument about the need for African governments to assume responsibility for ECE quality, in both public and private ECE programs. She invited governments to use service quality standards to define what good quality looks like in their country while considering equity and sustainability. To develop a quality assurance system, it was suggested that a country must (1) define the purpose, (2) identify, develop or adapt service quality standards, (3) design the Quality Assurance System that meets the country’s needs and (4) ensure the political, institutional and financial stability. Although it is recommended to follow the 4 steps approach, there is no “one-size-fit-all” version of a Quality Assurance System. The most important is for it to fit into the national ECE system and culture of evaluation and monitoring.
Dr. Abbie presented the results from the survey on Quality Assurance Systems in which 15 countries from all African regions participated. Concerning Standards, the results revealed that: 89% reported that standards are in place, 92% report that standards cover public and private facilities, 56% report that standards have been shared with all teachers and 20% report that all teachers have been trained on the standards. Concerning the level of monitoring, almost all countries are monitoring for aspects beyond health/safety alone, 78% have a monitoring system and 47% indicated that monitors have fewer than 10 facilities to visit monthly. In general, most countries have standards in place, strong national systems with highly trained staff and political back-up and legal frameworks are in place. However, there are still challenges such as the insufficiency of resources which results in poor coordination mechanisms, inability to benchmark across countries, poor enforcement of standards across all schools; combined with the inconsistent implementation of standards, the existence of many private providers and inadequate QAS staff.
Country Experiences Sharing from Burkina Faso, Morocco and Seychelles
The third segment was dedicated to engaging on country experiences shared by colleagues from Burkina Faso, Morocco and Seychelles.
In Burkina Faso, Mr. Lucien Hien, ECE Inspector and Technical advisor to the Minister of Education, said that there is currently no agency responsible for quality assurance at the Ministry of national education and many ECE stakeholders, in the government especially, are unaware of the existing regulations, and there are few resources allocated to the monitoring and evaluation. Hence the need to create awareness on ECD QAS through forums and sensitization campaigns.
In Morocco, Mr. Abdeljalil Benzouina, Head of the Central Pre-School Education Unit at the Ministry of Education, stated that the environment for ECE is very conducive and well structured, being embedded in the Kingdom’s constitution, 2015-2030 strategic vision and national laws. However, the presenter indicated the high rate of ECE teachers’ drop out because of few career incentives. The training offer is not standardized and there is a general insufficiency of financial resources to sustain all ECE initiatives.
In the Seychelles, Mrs. Shirley Choppy, CEO of the Institute for Early Childhood Development, indicated that there was a strong legal framework, national standards for Childminding and operational multi-sectoral coordination among the government, the private sector and partner agencies. However, there is limited training and professional development of regulatory professionals, combined with a lack of systematic approach and integrated structure for data collection on ECD. To solve these challenges, training is needed for regulatory personnel as well as the need to establish a national database on a data management system to link all partners and share information. Given that there was no legal provision to cover illegal childcare practices, it is important to review the legal framework to regulate all forms of childcare services.
During this session of exchanges moderated by Mr. Daniel Baheta, Chief of education at UNICEF Tanzania, most participants reinforced the need for teacher training in QAS and the need to make data-driven decisions in ECE. The issue of funding was raised and it was suggested to increase allocation in national budgets and mobilize external partners to fund ECE initiatives were encouraged. Many shared areas for improvement including in equity and access, data collection and management, professionalization of teachers, defining system accreditation and curriculums and more.
The meeting was closed by Mr. Albert Nsengiyumva, ADEA Executive Secretary, who encouraged regular advocacy and exchange of best practices between African countries through the ICQN-ECD and emphasized the need for greater cross-sectoral partnerships with stakeholders in government, NGOs, parents, teachers in ECE. He pointed out that investment in early childhood development (ECD) is no longer debatable since there is clear and compelling evidence that investing in the early years yields high rates of return as it is the very foundation of sustainable human development.
Even though many African countries still do not have comprehensive ECD policies and programmes to address the diverse needs of (health, nutrition, care, protection and education) of children, a few have established national frameworks to coordinate ECD programmes. All African countries were called upon to better prioritize ECD in government budgets, ensure that existing ECE standards are consistently implemented and to contextually identify effective approaches for quality improvement in the delivery of ECE in Africa.
Regular updates on the ICQN-ECD can be found here: http://ecd.adeanet.org/