A Expanding ECCE in Bangladesh: It Can Be Done
Early Childhood Care and Education is both a right in and of itself and a profitable investment in the human resources and the social capital of societies. This was one of the core messages of UNESCO's Education for All Global Monitoring Report of 2007. This message is well understood by policy makers and NGOs in Bangladesh today. Nobody needs to be convinced of the need to achieve EFA Goal One: expanding and improving comprehensive Early Childhood Care and Education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. The fact that only a minority of children in Bangladesh actually have access to quality programmes is not a result of a lack of political will, but of tight fiscal constraints in a country that is battling to universalize and improve primary education. In fact, at this very moment, in November 2008, Bangladesh is facing a triple crisis: the global food crisis, the credit crisis, and climate change. It seems the worst time to advocate for increased spending on a public service. Yet, the foundation for a society that is able to face such crises is laid in children's development during the very first years of their lives. This report shows that the costs of achieving Goal One are not insurmountable as long as the focus is on the poorest and on scaling up innovative and cost-effective approaches that are already being practiced in Bangladesh. Good examples are those programmes that improve the knowledge and skills of parents once their first child is born. The economic returns will be many times the original investment. Some of these returns take time to materialize, others will reveal themselves within just a few years, as dropout rates in primary education decrease. With the publication of the Operational Framework for Pre-Primary Education in March of this year, Bangladesh made a big step forwards to EFA Goal One. Early Childhood Care and Education has been conceptualized, standards have been set, and a vision has been formulated. Estimating the costs of realizing that vision was seen as the next step. This report makes that next step. It shows that expanding and improving Early Childhood Care and Education can be done, even today.