Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | November 12, 2012
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Jamaica continues to celebrate 50 years of Indepen-dence. We have achieved a lot. However, there is much work left to be done if we are to progress as a country. We must begin to tackle Jamaica's chronic problems in a targeted and sustained way to make this country a better place to live, work and grow families. The Next 50 Years, a special Gleaner series, will spotlight some of the challenges we must fix in the coming years. We want to hear from you. Email us at editor@gleanerjm.com and join the debate.

THE EARLY Childhood Development (ECD) programme in Jamaica has a rich history. In newly independent Jamaica, in the 1960s, research identified poor physical facilities at basic schools, but more important, limited teacher education.

In 1966, the University of the West Indies' Institute of Education partnered with the Ministry of Education and the Bernard van Leer Foundation on the Programme for Early Childhood Education. Under the direction of D.R.B. Grant, this programme developed the first structured in-service training programme for basic school teachers, a Jamaican children's curriculum, a training programme for supervisors, and established a professional teachers' organisation.

In 2001, the Planning Institute of Jamaica commissioned a strategic review of the Early Childhood (EC) sector. The review reported that all elements of a comprehensive EC programme existed, but there was poor coordination, duplication and inefficiency.

The establishment of a national, inter-ministerial, inter-sectoral, advisory and regulatory coordinating body was recommended. The review findings were given support and in March 2003, the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) Act, establishing the ECC as the coordinating body for ECD in Jamaica, was passed in Parliament.

As we move forward in the next 50 years, for Jamaican children zero to two years, accessible, high-quality parenting support must be priority, focusing on comprehensive early stimulation. For children three to five years, parenting support should continue.

For accelerated improvement in ECD over the next 50 years, there must be significant investment. This investment must be a national effort. Quality ECD is costly, but lack of quality will cost much more.

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