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Saturday, November 4, 2000

Early Childhood Development strategy document ready

A proposed strategy document for Early Childhood Development in the Kingdom has been drafted by the National Team for Early Childhood Development, headed by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, and is expected to be adopted following a two-day national conference tackling the issue, scheduled for November 12-13.

The strategy document, which has currently been submitted to approximately 350 experts in Jordan in the fields of child welfare and development for their feedback, focuses on issues pertaining to the enhancement of early childhood development in Jordan and the implementation of a national strategy to tackle the issue. The Queen had approved the document in a meeting with the National Team in September.

Delving into details and proposed mechanisms for implementation, the strategy document looks at fourteen issues pertaining to early childhood development: planning and management, legislation, health care during pregnancy, caring for children in nurseries, preschool education, basic education, family upbringing and local community, special needs education, curricula, health care services, child culture, the role of the media, human resources, and social protection.

Initiated and established by Queen Rania in December 1999, the National Team for Early Childhood Development is entrusted with drawing a national strategy to tackle and implement the issue. The National Team brings together experts and trained professionals in the field as well as non-governmental and governmental bodies.

 The National Team has met regularly over the past 11 months to draw up the strategy and to identify existing infrastructure dealing with the issue that can be drawn upon.

 The strategy document states that "early childhood development constitutes an important stage in the human being's life in general and the child's life in particular." Identifying the period of early childhood from pre-delivery to below nine years of age, the document says that "at this stage, a major part of the personal characteristics and elements of development are formed."

"Early childhood development strategy stems from the characteristics, needs, and requirements that distinguish age groups in the early childhood stage," reads the document. For this purpose, available studies, data, and figures were used. Studies in Jordan in the fields of women, population and human resources were also taken into account, in addition to the national action plan for childhood, and the social and economic development plans.

 Among the many issues dealt with by the strategy paper is preschool education. The document states that the strategy aims to increase the number of children joining kindergartens by up to 35% of the age group 4-6 before the year 2005. The strategy also seeks to develop and improve the quality of education services in the kindergartens and to provide equal opportunities for all groups and sectors of the society in the different geographical areas.

 The general policies to achieve the strategy's desired goals include the support and encouragement of the domestic voluntary sector in establishing and managing kindergartens which offer free or low charge for children with special needs such as low-income families, slow learners and the disabled. Among other proposals, the strategy also calls for the consideration of the second year of preschool education of the age group 5-6 years of age as part of the compulsory elementary education stage, and the development of program curricula and guide books for teachers and children in kindergarten.

 On the issue of family upbringing and local community, the document states that "the main responsibility of taking care of children in the first six years of age lies upon the family." Demonstrating that the percentage of children between the ages of 0-4 enrolled at nurseries stands at a low 2%, the strategy calls for projects to enhance the family environment.

Of the many objectives of the strategy in the field of family upbringing and local community in the field of early childhood development, the document calls for the enhancement of the role of the local community in providing early childhood programs and services that are directed towards families. The strategy also aims at improving family performance in the field of early childhood development by improving the skills needed to provide children with a safe and nurturing environment at home, as well as coordination among the services of social, medical, educational, cultural and environmental services provided to child and family sector, taking gender into consideration.

The proposed policies for the achievement of these goals on this front include the expansion of the projects directed towards families by all non-governmental organizations and ministries providing services to the early childhood sector, and carrying out research to identify dominant social upbringing types in Jordan in order to develop programs geared towards Jordanian families.

The strategy also calls for activating projects that aim to improve the family environment, such as parents awareness program, which enable families to provide better care to children with public, private, and social participation, as well as to evaluate concepts of family and social and education and improve them in both public and higher education curricula.

On the legislation front, the strategy seeks to raise awareness concerning child legal right's especially in the early childhood stage and to provide a legal framework for the protection of children's rights, among others.

 The strategy states that that the policies required to achieve these aims include the revision of the proposed Jordanian draft law of child's rights, and its authorization by parliament as soon as possible, and a revision mechanism of legislation, and to develop them continuously in accordance with social developments.

Among the many recommended policies and the mentioning of specific laws relating to children and early childhood development, the strategy also calls for increasing the participation of civil society and pressure groups to develop, innovate, and observe the application of legislation.