Sukabumi - July 22, 2010 - " I'm proud of PAUD" was the first thing that Pak Zainal Mutaqin, Head of the District Education Office in Sukabumi, told the World Bank on a recent visit. PAUD stands for Pendidikan Anak Usia Dini, or Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED), but in Sukabumi the acronym has entered not only the lexicon but is also the subject of songs. In two of the recently established early childhood centers, groups of 20 and 30 children sang an enthusiastic, hands in the air song about how happy and healthy they are, now that they have PAUD.
Communities all over Sukabumi now have access to early childhood education centers through the Early Childhood Education and Development Project, which provides training for teams of master trainers and facilitators and grants for communities to set up their centers. The sense of excitement is palpable when you approach the centers, parents are arriving on foot and on motorbikes, often with babies in slings and a child in a bright uniform who will go straight to the shelves of bricks and educational toys with their friends. They have their routines, welcoming words and games, they mouth along with the group prayer, the older ones showing that they know more, the newer children still holding onto mother’s leg or getting help with the actions.
Parents who bring their children find a place to wait and gather, for many this is a few hours, four times a week, when they get to take a break from work and chores and can chat with neighbors, while keeping an eye on the child inside. Where the center is also a local health post (Posyandu) it is also an opportunity to catch the local midwife or family planning officer. There is an overwhelming sense that these community centers are a cause of great pride, with parents commenting on how it is to see a child learning and developing in this way. The investment in uniforms is in a sense a mark of this pride, and while an equal investment in storybooks might help more in terms of preparation for primary school, it is clear that it is motivating for the parents to see their children dressed up for playgroup.
Ibu Dini heads a dedicated team at the Education office, with eleven trained facilitators who support 10 centers each, often in remote sub-villages up barely accessible rural tracks. The facilitators rotate amongst the centers in their care, giving ideas to improve the learning programs, community resource mobilization, deal with problems, and keep the books. Pak Henhen, the lead facilitator, notes that primary school teachers are starting to recognize the difference PAUD makes. Children who have spent time in early learning centers are better able to cope with school, have more self confidence and are more used to interaction. The facilitators point out other impacts. Children from poor families are now getting milk and other nutritional supplements through the project, and several cases of malnutrition have now been dealt with and the children put back on track. Communities have adopted new ideas with surprising speed, especially considering their often limited resources, and have made land available for the centers.
Local Support for ECED Program
The local education authority is taking early childhood programs seriously. A draft local regulation has been prepared, which will lay out the framework for early childhood education service provision. The holistic approach supported by the ECED project is being embraced, to the extent that the district government is now promoting the use of local health posts (Posyandu) for informal early childhood learning centers, and is training local ‘kader’ to deliver a range of services. The Mayor has launched a $500 Stimulus Package to cover start up costs for early childhood centers in Posyandu. The Health office will support Posyandu operational costs from 2011, offering integrated services for 0-1 year olds and 1-5 year olds. According to the Head of the Health office, Pak Ujam, malnutrition is dropping, and Posyandu staff are now using an improved child health monitoring system. The Education office has prepared an education and development monitoring system using a checklist approach which will be trialed shortly.
A training course for Posyandu ‘kader’ was in progress in a local hotel during the visit: 150 young people learning how to lead playgroups, trained by staff from the education, health and family planning offices. This was one of many: the Sukabumi government is holding 27 rounds of training for tutors from 365 villages this year. Tutors are selected by local communities, and must have graduated from junior secondary school and be ready to sign up for informal senior secondary. The local Muhammadiyah University is now complementing this effort by offering degree courses in Early Childhood Education and Development, with some scholarships from the local government.
Early childhood interventions will continue to be a priority in Sukabumi, with high levels of government and community commitment. The support under a previous UNICEF program and now the ECED project has helped create a buzz right across Java’s second largest district, and the demand for new centers now outstrips supply, so the local government aims to continue to promote volunteerism and community support while also guaranteeing the success of the Posyandu model and access to training for thousands of tutors.
Another important job is to celebrate the work of the centers, giving kudos to tutors who work for minimal financial reward, but who successfully motivate communities to improve the chances of the next generation
About the Early Childhood Education and Development Project (ECED)
The Early Childhood Education and Development project works with the Ministry of National Education to ensure that more children from poor families have access to early childhood education, thus improving their overall development and readiness for school. The project also supports the development of a sustainable early childhood education and development system. The project works in 6,000 poor communities, reaching more than 700,000 children. Funds for the project come from a World Bank IBRD loan and IDA grant, and includes a grant contribution from the Royal Netherlands Government.