From as far back as 2013, around 60 percent of children registered to attend public schools at the foundation level failed to meet the basic prerequisites for reading. In fact, it was found that fewer than 10 percent could demonstrate any understanding of text and 40 percent showed very little or no ability to identify any numbers from one to 10.
To address this daunting shortcoming, the government of Guyana together with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) developed a programme for early childhood care and education.
The programme is one that embraces three main pillars: strengthening the skills of teachers; improving teaching and learning materials; and training for parents and primary caregivers.
More than 8,000 children in remote areas of Guyana have benefitted from this programme and almost 90 percent of them now master reading and math skills compared to 37 percent in 2016.
Elated with the development, Education Minister, Nicolette Henry, said, it is “a story of growth, a story of hope, and a story of encouragement, particularly for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged population.”
But Guyana is just one example of the huge shift in emphasis towards pre-school education in recent years said Alice Albright, Chief Executive Officer of GPE. Her comments about the local education system was recently publicised in Apolitical. Apolitical is an online educational journal in which the country’s Early Childhood Development programme was recently featured complete with rave reviews.
GPE, the world’s only partnership and fund solely focused on education in developing countries, has invested about US$200 million in more than 35 partner developing countries to support early childhood care and education.
It has, however, been noted that the overall funding is still very low, despite the evidence that early learning better prepares children for primary school, improves their learning and reduces repetition and drop-out rates, thus making education systems more efficient.
Funding for early childhood education, Apolitical has highlighted, is also not keeping pace with enrolment growth.
Since it has been found that national spending in developing countries is not enough to provide quality early education services and with private providers accounting for more than half of all enrolled children in pre-primary education, the burden of paying often falls on families.
For this reason it has been noted that more must be done to retain the gains made including through aid programmes. At the international level, only two percent of foreign aid to basic education goes to the pre-primary sector. It has therefore been deduced that reaching the United Nationals Sustainable Development Goal target which speaks to education will require a significant increase in financial support.
“We also urgently need to improve the quality of data, not only on where early childhood education is available, but also on its quality and whether all children have access or just a few. Only then will we be able to properly ensure that services are effective and reaching the poorest and most marginalised children who stand to benefit most,” Albright said.