The National Assembly has approved the Early Childhood Bill 2022 which seeks to protect the service of childminding and activities at crèche level for preparation for primary education.
The bill was initiated in 2021 following the approval by cabinet and signing of an agreement with Unesco and the Ministry of Education to transform and establish the Institute of Early Childhood Development (IECD) into an international centre (Unesco Category 2 Centres) for early childhood following remarkable progress by the country in the sector.
Presenting the bill on Tuesday, Minister for Education, Dr Justin Valentin, stated that its objective is to adapt the provisions of the current Institute of Early Childhood Development Act, 2014 (IECD Act) to the more modern criteria and obligations set forth under the Unesco Agreement; specifically those relating to the Unesco Category 2 Centres for Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and to allow IECD under the auspices of Unesco, to effectively operate as such thereby extending the institute’s regulatory powers.
The institute, established in 2014 under the IECD Act and which will continue under this Act, seeks to promote the holistic development of the child and to establish an efficient framework for ECCE. Its functions delineated under clause 4 concern pre-eminently the registration of childminders and with making certain of the childminders’ adherence to the guidelines and standards that regulate childminding services and establishments in the Republic. Category 2 centres as defined under the Unesco agreement was plainly left out.
The institute will remain the principal implementing entity of the legal instrument with the core objective of bringing about improvements in services rendered in child care facilities at the non-compulsory stage of education; that is education rendered for children between the ages of 0 to 5 years thereby furthering advancements in ECCE on a wider scale.
Minister Valentin said that the Bill proposes to provide the institute with a legal basis to operate as an international centre for ECCE, consistent with the obligations of the Unesco Category 2 Centres and furthermore to increase, on a regional and international level, the recognition of the Republic and the institute’s leadership.
He said that the amendment presented to transform IECD as a regulator will help to provide access to affordable early childhood care in the country.
All members from the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) and from the United Seychelles (US) who intervened spoke in favour, recognising the necessity for IECD in our education system, an institution with a direction to raise the country’s education excellence. They would also like to see that childminders and day care operators are taken onboard in the process so that they do not get confused when the law is put in place.
The country is seen to have made a remarkable progress in early childhood education and is on the right track to reach the United Nation’s Sustainable Gold target 4.1 which ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes by 2030.
Among questions from the floor were the role of the institution and the fate of IECD workers following the institution’s merger within the ministry, the role of the minister in the running of the affairs of IECD and if IECD programmes will include inclusive education, among others.
In his response yesterday morning Minister Valentin said that the IECD will operate within a legal structure for continued advancement as an international centre while the workers will continue as IECD workers with the provision of more capacity building and training to further develop the institute and early childhood. He said that the role of the minister in the running of IECD is to assure that the policies and desires of government are respected and materialised.
Minister Valentin also supported the idea for continued publication of the names of childminders and day care operators for the benefit of families seeking a desired place to care for their child among other reasons and with regard to inclusive education in ECCE, he said that the ministry is working and has structures in place to make it a normal education for all children.
After the committee stage to work on amendments, the bill was approved by 26 members. There were no members who voted against the bill while on the other hand three members abstained from voting.
Courtesy: Patrick Joubert (Nation.sc)