Tuesday August 19 2014

Revise early childhood education system

By Editorial

The government should quickly revise the Early Childhood Development Policy, 2007. This will enable review of critical elements of early learning such as relevance of syllabus, fees, and time spent by toddlers in preparatory school. For now, these issues remain uncoordinated and unmeasured for effectiveness. As such, these pre-primary institutions are not supervised and left in the hands of private players to operate as they choose.

As it stands now, the guidelines have been in place for five years without any follow-up. And as Executive Director Coalition for Private Schools Teachers Association , Mr Patrick Kaboyo says, the policy should have been weighed in 2012, after five years of implementation.

Because of this lack of review, the Education Act, 2008, also still places the oversight of these institutions on the shoulders of private managers. Even when the Ministry of Education and Sports has the policy in place, there are no enabled personnel to oversee the sector. To correct this, the push by key stakeholders to have the Education Act, 2008, also amended should be supported.

The government should enforce the push by a special sector retreat of stakeholders that met in Mbale in March this year. So when the Annual Education Sector Review comes up on September 23, the stakeholders should focus debate on early childhood education and day-care. This is why this upcoming sector review, centred on debating acquired skills, is well-timed. More so because the early years of a child, up to six years, forms one of the most critical cycles of early development.

At this formative age, a child’s brain is stimulated to build critical cognitive skills, attitude, and psyche to prepare for primary education, and later cycles in life. This demands that the Education ministry also focus on pre-primary education, which is now abandoned to businesses. It is critical that the ministry also audits what these preparatory schools teach, how much and how it is taught, and who teaches and in what environment. This would enforce a coherent syllabus, timetable, and fees for the toddlers. For now, the tots are burdened by workbooks, exams, long hours, and unqualified teachers.

To their credit, these early education providers have made pre-primary education accessible, although prohibitive to rural Ugandans. Nonetheless, this review is crucial to enable government streamline and ensure quality assurance in private early education institutions.

Above all, the review should adopt and fast-track government’s plan to introduce compulsory Early Childhood Development centres in all Universal Primary Education schools to improve access and equity and link early learning, primary, and tertiary education and fulfil MDG agenda for all children in Uganda.