April 20, 2007
Early childhood education in SVG

20.APR.07 by Minister of Education – The HON. Girlyn Miguel

There are many benefits to be derived from Education during the early years of a child’s life. These years are character building years which start at conception. The state of mind of the mother during pregnancy has an effect on the child’s overall well-being; therefore, a mother’s happiness must be made a priority during pregnancy. A sense of belonging has a positive effect on the self-esteem of a child; this puts him/her well on his/her way to becoming a productive citizen, which is our ultimate goal.{{more}}

Six (6) years ago, the Government made a promise to improve the quality of Early Childhood Education in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and with the aid of funding from the European Union Funding under the Special Framework of Assistance (SFA) 2003 Project, this promise is about to be fulfilled.

The Ministry of Education has structured a series of activities that will lead to higher quality child care programmes for our youngest citizens. Yes, I said citizens because our children are citizens with rights. They have the right to be wanted, cared for, loved, respected, guided and have access to quality education; which starts in the early years.

Time and time again, studies conducted in various countries around the world have found that investment in children during the formative years result in a reduction of problems during adolescence and adulthood. This proves the importance of Early Childhood Education.

Our Government is taking the lead in undertaking the great task of molding our children for the future. In order to accomplish this task, parents, teachers, churches and communities will be invited to be joint partners. “It takes a whole community to raise a child.”

Approximately 65% of our children of preschool age are enrolled in our 115 registered child care centres. It is our goal to provide access to an education for all preschoolers by the year 2010. Before one hundred (100%) percent access can be achieved, we must first improve the quality of our preschools, and this will be accomplished through a series of activities.

For the past two years, Early Childhood Education Officer, Lilly McDowall has been facilitating workshops to assist preschool operators and teachers to be more professional, become better planners, to take steps to improve the quality of their programmes and to understand how children learn and the different learning styles, and provide information in the various Learning Areas that would make learning a fun experience for the children.

Over the next fifteen (15) months, the Government will be implementing several activities to achieve the goal of higher quality child care programmes. There will be continued training in the form of short-term workshops which will strengthen teaching skills. There will also be long-term training for individuals who have the desire and meet the requirements to enter the field of Early Childhood Education. This will be offered at a regionally recognized training institution right here in our homeland. This training will equip teachers with skills to provide stimulating programmes that would foster the holistic development of our Nation’s children. Training would also help the teachers to become better classroom managers, to understand and meet the needs of the children in their care and to be more equipped to handle the challenge of moulding the future. This job is much too large for the teachers to undertake alone, so parents will be invited to come on board as partners with the preschools and teachers.

Our Government will also be providing training for parents to strengthen parenting skills, and develop a National parent volunteer programme. When children see their parents involved with their preschools, they will come to see school as a good place to be. So together we will nurture our children.

In addition to providing training for teachers, and parents, the Government will also make investments in the new and existing preschools to upgrade the physical structures. This will create a more pleasant learning environment for our children, which will be equipped with learning materials to develop skills and promote learning.

Our Government is moving speedily to implement Policies, Regulations and Standards of operation that will serve as measuring tools to ensure that all children at the centres are performing at an acceptable standard. These standards will address issues such as the development of our children growing up to be healthy, strong and well adjusted, to communicate effectively, to value their culture, to be critical thinkers and independent learners, to respect themselves, others and the environment, and to be resilient. The standards will also address the personality of caregivers, their ability to provide stimulating learning environments, and establish positive disciplinary practices for our children. The standards will also speak to the provision of good nutritional habits, a safe and secure environment to foster the development of the children, the inclusion of children with different needs and abilities, and provisions will be made to protect our children from harm and neglect.

All partners will be given a voice to air any concerns, and have questions answered at zonal town hall meetings. These town hall meetings will start on May 10th, 2007. You will be given an opportunity to express your thoughts.

Preschool Operators, teachers, churches, communities, let us work together to build a better tomorrow, where today’s children will be nurtured to become well balanced, and productive adults.