In developing countries, there is limited knowledge and good practice of how to bring quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) to scale within national education systems. That’s why, over the past few months, the GPE secretariat has been finalizing the design of the new initiative on early learning called Better Early Learning and Development at Scale (BELDS). The aim of BELDS is to help fill this knowledge and practice gap to improve ECCE in partner countries.
Three main goals emerged while thinking through the overall design of BELDS – the process should be:
- driven by GPE partner countries and focusing on areas of need that emerge through consultation
- a transparent selection of activities and countries
- creating a model that is easily scalable with additional financing.
These goals have been incorporated into the design process and have been a driving force for decision making.
Four steps to designing early learning support
The process of ensuring a country-driven approach involves four main steps, with the support of GPE partner countries, GPE Secretariat, members of civil society, and experts in the field of ECCE.
The first step is a needs assessment. An online survey was administered to all 65 GPE partner countries, with 40 participating to date. The survey, designed in consultation with GPE Secretariat, technical experts and partners, provided valuable insights into the ECCE landscape and priorities of partner countries.
The second step is consultations. Following initial feedback from the online survey to partner countries, key consultations were held for deeper contextual understanding and input into the BELDS design.
Preliminary analysis of partner country responses to the ECCE survey were presented to country representatives for initial comments at the GPE pre-Board meeting in December 2017. Additionally, in-person and phone consultations were held with a small subset of ECCE technical officers in partner countries. In these meetings, government representatives further elaborated on their goals and challenges to scaling quality ECCE services in their countries.
In order to get a more holistic view of the ECCE landscape and current challenges, a slightly adapted version of the ECCE survey was also sent to civil society organizations in Africa (attempts to survey civil society organizations in other regions is currently underway). This gave us the ability to cross reference survey responses and added more voices to the growing data.
In early February 2018, a meeting was held with representatives from multilaterals, private foundations, academic/research, civil society, regional ECCE networks, and the GPE Secretariat. The group of 12 experts provided their reactions to the ECCE survey responses as well as brainstormed priority areas for support under the GPE initiative. This meeting helped narrow the scope of work under BELDS and provided a space for in depth discussion on ECCE.
From these consultations three main issues emerged and were an important part of the program design:
- There is a lack of information and testing of resourced ECCE programs at scale.
- The information that is available is not used to its potential, either because it is not contextualized or because it is not properly disseminated.
- Existing tools and instruments that can build and sustain quality ECCE systems and capacity are often underutilized.
The third and fourth steps are program design and implementation. The BELDS initiative will launch in mid-2018 supporting a small number of partner countries with a piloted approach for capacity building and peer learning with government officials and members of the local education group and other relevant national stakeholders in pre-primary education.
In close consultation with country partners and experts, strong case studies on planning and delivery of a variety of effective ECCE models will be developed so that finalized tools and products from this work can best serve GPE partner countries and their ECCE programs.
The design of the BELDS initiative will be a continuous process as implementation and monitoring is underway. This continuous approach will not only benefit the work on BELDS, but will help inform the design and implementation of other new GPE initiatives, such as the knowledge and learning exchange (KIX). This is just one example of the ways partnerships are allowing GPE to make an impact in the education sector.