Photo Courtesy: UNICEF

More than 100 newly established government ECCD centers without facilitators

Although more than 100 government Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centers have been established in 2019-2020, across the 20 dzongkhags, however, ECCDs are non-operational due to the lack of facilitators. The Ministry of Education (MoE) is awaiting approval for recruitment of facilitators from RCSC, and the sooner the approval is accepted, the faster the operations can start, which is expected to benefit more than 1,000 children aged 3- 5 years.

Currently, facilitators with class XII and above qualification, and with an intensive basic training, are recruited, and they are placed in S5 level. Also, more than 200 facilitators are undergoing diploma programs in the Paro College of Education. As per the international literature review, ideally, ECCD facilitators should be qualified with at least a degree level of education and training, given the professional demand for quality facilitators

The country has about 5 to 10 percent of facilitators with the degree level qualification. There are not many college graduates opting for ECCD facilitator jobs as most of them have the aspiration to get selected into the civil service.  The job as an ECCD facilitator was a backup plan in case they did not make as a civil servant.

MoE has set a target of 50 percent access in 2024, as per the Bhutan Education Blueprint goal. However, the target can be achieved only if challenges related to financial and human resource constraints are overcome. While the private sector can also be engaged more in providing ECCD services, there are only about 60 private ECCDs concentrated in urban areas, like Thimphu and Phuentsholing, and not everyone in these towns can afford to send their children to the private ECCD centers, as the fees in such centers range from Nu 3000 to Nu 10,000 per month. Currently, MoE is only able to provide access to about 27 percent of children aged 3-5 years.

Access to ECCD services is most challenging for children and families in scattered remote locations, including those in nomadic communities with just a few children, which makes it difficult to establish normal ECCD centers, like in clustered communities with many children.

In order to address the challenge, the ministry is exploring and using many alternative approaches such as mobile ECCD centers and home based ECCD interventions, and provide an access to ECCD centers to all children in such remote locations.

According to prominent neuroscience research findings, ECCD is important, as the period from birth to 5 years is the most critical and sensitive phase of child development, given that 85 – 90 percent of human development takes place during this window of time.

In simple words, the foundation of whatever an individual can possibly become in life, in terms of health, behavior, attitude, learning, emotional strength, social competencies and intelligence are learnt or formed in the first five years of life, based on what the child experiences.

An analysis of pass percentage and reduced expenditure on repetition in class PP, based on the Annual Education Statistics of 2005 to 2015, reveals that there is a consistent reduction in PP repetition rate since 2010, when ECCD children started enrolling in PP.

A comparative analysis of test scores of children with and without ECCD experience in class III on annual result was conducted where 224 students were randomly selected from 10 schools in 10 dzongkhags, and as per the analysis of class III in 2018, the findings are there was a difference in achievement level.

As per Education Statistics, there are a total of 492 ECCD centers in the country, with 432 government ECCDS, 48 private ECCDS, 3 NGO and 9 corporations. And a total of 910 facilitators. Currently, more than 10,600 children aged between 3 to 5 years are enrolled in either government or private ECCD centers.

ECCD centers are not just catering for early learning of children, but are also providing parenting education to increase parents’ capacity to provide better care and guidance.  There is a high demand for ECCD services, considering that ECCD centers are established based on the demand of parents and communities.  

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