Developing Early Childhood Education in Djibouti and Morocco
A knowledge exchange and peer learning activities were carried out for delegations from Djibouti and Morocco seeking to learn from Mauritius. Despite different national contexts, Djibouti and Morocco are facing similar challenges that Mauritius faced in the mid-1980s, relating a largely informal Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector and improving quality of services. The objectives of the exchange were to better understand how Mauritius has been able to tackle the issues around the adoption of a legal and institutional framework that supports Early Childhood Development. The knowledge exchange took place on May 20-25, 2019.
Main topic discussed included:
Adoption of a legal and institutional framework as well as a common curriculum for ECD
- Multisectoral coordination mechanisms
- Quality assurance of early childhood education services in the public and private sectors
- Training of pre-primary educators and defining the requirements of access the profession
Djibouti and Morocco recognize that investment in early childhood education can address early gaps in cognitive outcomes and can yield lasting high returns. The two countries face similar challenges in efforts to expand learning opportunities for all, mostly because of inefficient policy instruments and ineffective institutional arrangements. In both countries, inadequate public funding for early child education means that parents must contribute thus further widening the gap between high and low incomes families. Another challenge is the lack of trained teachers and educators in pre-primary education in both countries. These combined challenges have imposed a strong need for a comprehensive and coordinated plan for pre-primary education in order to improve access, quality and gender equity.
Djibouti and Morocco were particularly eager to learn from Mauritius, a country that had faced and overcome comparable challenges successfully. Mauritius’ educational system is often cited as a knowledge hub and center of excellence by the Inter-County Quality Node on Early Childhood Development (2015).
An initial action planning session was held with stakeholders – one in Djibouti and another in Morocco. This session allowed for each country to discuss and identify their expectations from the knowledge exchange, the composition of the team and assigned roles for each team member.
This was followed by a half-day video conference bringing delegations from both countries together with the knowledge providers in Mauritius. During this virtual meeting, delegations were introduced to each other, shared their expectations and jointly planned the key aspects of the knowledge exchange visit. The agreed focus areas were:
- Adoption of a legal and institutional framework as well as a common curriculum for early childhood education
- Multisectoral coordination mechanisms
- Quality assurance of early childhood education services in the public and private sectors; and
- Training of pre-primary educators and defining the requirements to access the profession
A study tour to Mauritius took place on May 20-25, 2019. During this visit, delegations from Morocco and Djibouti visited and had discussions with counterparts at:
- The Ministry of Education
- The Early Childhood Care and Education Authority (ECCEA)
- The Mauritius Institute of Education
- The Mauritius Qualification Authority
- The Open University of Mauritius
A field visit was organized at a pre-school managed by the ECCEA. It was followed by a demonstration of how the institution operates, allocates grants, monitors quality standards and provides professional development for teachers and educators. During a field visit to the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE), the delegations were able to meet with students and interview educators specializing in early childhood care and education. There were focus group discussions about areas of common interest (gender equality, special needs children, learning outcomes and the disconnect between home and school languages) to officials from the three countries.
From the participant feedback as well as subsequent discussions, the following key lessons emerged:
- The importance of intersectoral coordination. The Early Childhood Care and Education Authority- ECCA (Under the Ministry of Education) provides intersectoral coordination for ECD policies and programs. ECCA works closely with several institutions such as the Ministry of Gender, Child Development and Family Welfare, The Ministry of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment, The Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, The Ombudsman for Children and the Ministry of Social Security. The ECCA is governed by a diverse board whose members reflect the collaboration between state and non-state ECD stakeholders
- Attributes of enabling policies and a national curriculum educational framework required to achieve gender equity, increase universal pre-school coverage and provide equitable access to quality services, regardless of one’s socio-economic background
- The importance of having a mandatory national curriculum aligned to the UN Convention for Child Rights for all preschools
- The importance of establishing mechanisms to improve services for children with special needs
- Establishing service delivery standards and infrastructure for early child education such as procedure manuals, furniture and pedagogical play materials, mandatory standards for structural soundness, water and sanitation, health and safety standards; the teacher to pupil ration of 1:25 (the average ratio in ECCA preschools in Mauritius is 1:14)
- The importance of establishing registration and accreditation procedures for preschools
- Capacity development and training of ECCE care givers and educators through rigorous and harmonized teacher training courses.
Beneficiaries / Participants
- Nima Mohamed Moussa, Basic Education Inspector, Ministry of National Education and Professional Training, Djibouti
- Loula Ali Elabe, Director of Public Education, Ministry of National Education and Professional Training, Djibouti
- Said Zarhouti, Head of the Statistics Division, Department of Strategy, Statistics and Planning, Ministry of Education, Morocco
- Aziz Kaichouh, President, Moroccan Foundation for the Promotion of Preschool Education, Morocco
- Malik Tazi, Deputy Director, Department of Cooperation and Promotion of Private Preschool Education, Ministry of Education, Morocco
- Mohammed Bounou, Head of Preschool, Department of Cooperation and Promotion of Private Pre-school Education, Ministry of Education, Morocco
World Bank Contribution
The World Bank, through the South- South Facility, funded the knowledge exchange activities. Planning and implementation were a collaborative effort between teams from the Education and Gender Global Practices in the MENA and East Africa Regions, the Development Economics (DEC) Vice Presidency unit and the Governance Global Practice
Overall, the participants were extremely satisfied with the choice of Mauritius as the knowledge-providing country. The knowledge exchange presented the delegates with potential solutions they can implement in their respective countries to help overcome the challenges they face in the ECD sector and how to design effective policies and programs for young children.
Both countries expressed interest in joining the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA Inter Country Quality Node on Early Childhood Development), hosted and led by Mauritius.
Djibouti: Partnerships have been formed with specific institutions visited during the knowledge exchange visit, namely, the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE) and the Early Childhood Care and Education Authority(ECCEA), with the main goal of supporting Djibouti in developing a legal framework, a common curriculum as well as the teachers in-service training and development
Morocco: Partnerships were formed with the Mauritius Qualification Authority (MQA) as Morocco is in the process of implementation pre-service and in-service training. Discussion with the Open University of Mauritius were held to explore ways to accelerate South-South cooperation on the contextualization of teaching and learning materials to enhance the training of teachers (via distance learning) which is underway in Morocco.
Mauritius: The Ministry of Education expressed interest in participating in a learning visit to Morocco to learn more about MASSAR, Morocco’s online school information management tool.
During the visit to the Ministry of Education, the delegations were given an overview of the pre-primary education landscape in Mauritius. Pre-primary education in Mauritius targets 3-5-year-old children. Although attendance is not compulsory, the net enrollment rate is 96% . Historically, the sector was dominated by private providers such as NGO’s, Faith based and for-profit organizations (charging fees ranging from Rs 200 – Rs 2000 or more per child, approximately USD 5-50). The design and enforcement of quality control mechanisms remained central to the Government policy efforts through the Early Childhood Care and Education Authority (ECCEA) which is the governmental regulatory agency responsible for coordinating early childhood education policies and programs and quality assurance. To encourage the demand for pre-school, the Government of Mauritius provides all families with financial support contingent upon the child attending one year of pre-primary school at the age of 4. The transfer amounts to USD 6 per month per child and is sent directly to the private schools.
During the visit to the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE), the delegations learned from the Child Monitoring Development systems that Mauritius uses to track the child’s physical, cognitive, social and linguistic development. Each child has a themed developmental learner profile. Each child also has a transit developmental learner profile. This is a document that provides a summary of the child’s progress and development across pre-primary years 1 and 2. The assessment records the progress the child is making as a pre-school learner around six thematic learning areas (personal, social and emotional development; communication language and literacy; expressive, creative and aesthetic development; health and physical development; body and environmental awareness; mathematic and logical thinking).
The MIE provides certifications for teachers (health and safety development), school managers (ICT, special needs, school community) and inspectors/coordinators who supervise assessments and curriculum in the early years.
The Open University (OU) is a public university in Mauritius offering degree programs through distance learning. The OU offers degree and diploma programs with multiple entry and exit points depending on the learner’s educational and professional background and the type of program they are interested in. For both young aspiring and employed ECCE teachers, they offer a rigorous bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Care.
One of the biggest challenges Mauritius faced was how to professionalize pre-school teaching staff. As ECD became a key priority within the national education strategy, the government established regulations and quality control mechanisms. Consequently, MIE developed training program for existing pre-school teachers’ workforce. Distance education was also introduced to ensure that pre-primary teachers could pursue self-paced training programs (to complete within a two-year period) to meet the minimum requirements while continuing to work. Distance education was a collaborative effort between MIE, ECCEA and UNICEF. It took a decade, but practically all teachers in registered pre-schools have obtained the Certificate of Proficiency in Early Childhood Education, which is the minimum requirement. This certificate course considers prior experience and qualification and is available to educators currently working in the ECD sector at no cost. The course is offered in mixed modalities, with distance education being the most popular mode.
In Mauritius, the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) is an outcome of the extensive consultations between the Mauritius Institute of Education and the wide range of private and public stakeholders and agencies. These include the Early Childhood Care and Education Authority (ECCEA), representatives from the various Ministries such as Social Security, Womens Rights and Child Development and Family Welfare, Ombudsperson for Children, Local Government Supervisors of Pre-primary Schools, State Law Office and Unions of Pre-Primary School Teachers.
The NCF is based on the following:
- The basic principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
- The cognitive, social, emotional, physical, aesthetic, moral and spiritual development of the child
- The cultural diversity of the Mauritian society
- The need to equip the child with skills to facilitate learning to read, write and count.
To ensure that children with special needs are given optimal opportunities to develop and access schooling, MIE works in close collaboration with the Special Needs Education Unit of the Ministry of Education to develop tools to detect children with learning difficulties for the appropriate remedial action.
- The Ministry of Education, Mauritius
- Early Childhood Care and Education Authority (ECCEA)
- Mauritius Institute of Education
- Mauritius Qualification Authority
- The Open University of Mauritius
Results Story Author: Twity M. Uzele