Learn how the World Bank Group is helping countries with COVID-19 (coronavirus). Find Out

Praxis Discussion Series: Early Childhood Care and Education
January 24, 2014World Bank office, Level 19, 14 Martin Place, Sydney, NSW

Interested in childhood literacy and education? Join us live in Sydney for a panel discussion and Q&A on the role of early years' education in improving learning, child health and well-being with 4 experts, moderated by Jess Scully from Vivid Ideas. The event will discuss what governments, families and communities can do to support early childhood care and education. Audiences in Honiara, Port Moresby and Dili will also be able to join via video link.

Globally, there has been huge progress in expanding access to education, with some 90 percent of boys and girls enrolling in primary school in 2013. But while more children are enrolled in school than ever before, many are repeating grades and learning outcomes too often fall short. In our region, recent assessments of basic reading skills in Vanuatu and Tonga found that up to 70 percent of Year 3 students are struggling to learn to read.

Research shows that many of life’s social and education outcomes can be traced back to the experiences children have or lack from their early years. Early childhood education – such as through access to books, games and family literacy – may have a critical role to play in determining success at school, by helping children develop skills and attributes needed for overall wellbeing and lifelong learning. However, it has often been neglected in conversations about both education and development.

Is there evidence to support greater investment in early childhood care and education, especially in countries where human and financial resources are strained? What role can families and communities play in building children’s learning in their early years, and how can this best be supported? Can experiences from Indigenous communities in Australia be used to inform activities across the Pacific?

Drawing on evidence from Australia and countries around the world, as well as the development of an innovative new pilot initiative in Tonga and Papua New Guinea, we are joined by Raelyn Lolohea ‘Esau, Deputy Director, Ministry of Education and Training, Tonga; Dr Sally Brinkman, Co-Director of Fraser Mustard Centre at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research; Mary-Ruth Mendel, Co-founder and Chairman of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation and; Myrna Machuca-Sierra, Education Specialist at the World Bank.

Follow on Twitter: @WorldBankAsia #PacificPraxis

Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6FE8A490B08CB2DB&feature=plcp


  • Raelyn Lolohea ‘Esau, Deputy Director, Ministry of Education and Training, Tonga
    Raelyn holds a PhD, MA and BA in English and Geography. During 1995 - 1999, she worked as an Assistant Teacher Graduate teaching English at ‘Eua and Tonga High School, involved in curriculum writing and English exam marker for national exams. After studying for 6 years in Japan, she resumed work as an administrator at the Policy and Planning Division where she became involved in coordinating the Tonga Education Support Program. In 2009 she assisted with Tonga’s first Early Grade Reading Assessment (TEGRA). Since 2012, she has been the Dean, Tonga Institute of Education and is involved in working towards advocating Teacher Education reforms for Tonga. Other activities include coordinating the new Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning project (PEARL), Collaboration with other government Ministries on Strategies to engage youth and discourage inter School violence, Leadership and Mentoring for better resilience of students and staff; and working with the Embassy of Japan and JICA in Nuku’alofa to advocate for the advancement of Japanese Language Education in Tonga.
  • Dr Sally Brinkman, Co-Director of Fraser Mustard Centre at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
    Dr Brinkman is a social epidemiologist with the majority of her research focusing on societies’ impact on child development and the population monitoring of child development and early education. Sally is well known for spearheading the use of the Early Development Instrument (EDI) in Australia. The instrument is now used across the entire country once every three years with over 260,000 children participating during each data collection. Internationally, Sally works with Governments and donor organisations such as the World Bank, UNICEF, and AusAID working with various measures of child development for monitoring and evaluation purposes. Sally has over 60 publications including books, chapters, monographs and journal articles covering topics such as infant mouthing behaviours, child physical activity and nutrition levels, the measurement of alcohol related violence, the evaluation of teenage pregnancy prevention programs, how child development varies across communities and the impact of socio economics and service integration on child development. She has a commitment to practical, pragmatic and translatable research.
  • Mary-Ruth Mendel, Co-founder and Chairman of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF)
    Mrs Mendel is a Speech and Language Pathologist, specialising in literacy and language learning difficulties. The ALNF, operating since 1999, is a philanthropic organisation dedicated to raising language, literacy and numeracy standards in Australia. ALNF raises funds to develop, implement and sustain innovative projects for individuals, families and communities.

    Mary-Ruth is the author of programs and courses including the Early Language and Literacy Program, the Learning to Read and Write in First Language program and CALIL – Coding Aboriginal Languages for Indigenous Literacy.  ALNF projects are designed for all Australian children and their families, particularly those who are new arrivals to Australia, low socio-economic communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Mary-Ruth was a finalist in The Australian of the Year Awards 2008: Local Hero Award NSW, and is an annual Australia Day Ambassador.
  • Myrna Machuca-Sierra, Education Specialist at the World Bank
    Myrna Machuca-Sierra is an Education Specialist in the East Asia and the Pacific Region at the World Bank’s office in Sydney. She has worked on education projects in Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and Latin America and the Caribbean in early childhood education, primary education, early grade reading assessments, curriculum and classroom practices and multigrade education. She has authored and co-authored analytical reports, policy and technical notes on early grade reading assessment, curricular improvement and education quality. She holds a Masters in Public Policy with a focus on research and evaluation methods from the University of Chicago.

Event Details
  • Date: January 24, 2014
  • Time: Friday 24 January, 1pm – 2pm (please arrive by 12:45pm in order to be seated on time)
  • Location: World Bank office, Level 19, 14 Martin Place, Sydney, NSW
  • Contact: pacificmedia@worldbank.org