Early Childhood Development in 2011

This portfolio is committed to finding models, programmes and approaches that will ensure that ECD services reach the majority of children under the age of 6. We feel that there is some urgency in achieving this vision as currently there are only 30% of children in ECD sites and so for the other 70%, this represents a significant loss of opportunity.

With this in mind, out of the approximately 200 applications that we received in 2011, we looked particularly for proposals that could show us how to take different aspects of ECD delivery to scale. We thought of ECD provision as a whole system made up of various roleplayers such as caregivers, ECD practitioners, trainers, RTOs, policy-makers, and local, provincial and national government representatives. And we looked for programmes or interventions that worked with any part of this system.

So what projects did we say ‘yes’ to?

  • We said ‘yes’ to projects that could show some evidence or potential to be catalytic – by this we mean projects that are grappling with questions of scale-up, are looking at how they can address systemic bottlenecks or are exploring how their work can have a multiplier effect beyond those who they work with directly. We didn’t expect organisations to have the answers to these issues but we were interested if they were open and willing to explore this
  • We said ‘yes’ to projects that were trying to provide ECD services to children in homes and other informal community-based settings not just in ECD sites
  • We said ‘yes’ to projects that are learning from what has and hasn’t worked in the past

What projects did we say ‘no’ to?

  • We said ‘no’ to individual ECD centres. While recognising their good work, the ECD portfolio does not fund individual pre-schools, crèches or ECD sites. We just don’t have the resources or capacity to do this
  • We said ‘no’ to projects that are not doing any monitoring and evaluation of their work. We are not looking for sophisticated systems. But we are interested in basic reliable data that can answer questions about who you are working with, how often, to what effect

In 2012, there are a number of areas that we are going to give particular attention to:

  • Refining an ECD package for 0-4 year olds that comprises nutrition support, cognitive stimulation, literacy and numeracy development, psychosocial support and access to health & social services – we are going to focus on nutrition, and literacy and numeracy development in particular
  • Support for formalising human resource development in the ECD sector, particularly increased recognition of home- and community-based practitioners and their work
  • Continuing to find innovative ways of expanding the national capacity for ECD, including through non-traditional points of entry such as child & youth care workers,  and through mechanisms for scale-up such as social franchising
  • Capacitation of the non-government ECD sector, particularly with respect to their changing role in expanded provision of quality ECD and strengthening management and leadership
  • Other innovations that help to make quality ECD available for many more children
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