SEAMEO RECFON hosted a virtual workshop on establishing a Southeast Asian Early Childhood Development Promotion (SEA-ECDP) Working Group on 2-3 August 2022 as part of its roadmap to scale up its flagship program on Early Childhood Care, Nutrition and Education (ECCNE) in the region.

The workshop brought together 50 participants from government, academic, and development organization representatives to discuss the current state of ECDP implementation in Southeast Asia and agree on how the formation of the SEA-ECDP Working Group could help address ECDP issues and concerns that are common among SEAMEO member countries.

The SEA-ECDP Working Group is envisioned to enhance the quality of ECD implementation in Southeast Asia and contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 4.2 and SEAMEO Priority 1 on Universal Early Childhood Care and Education. It is expected to perform the following functions, namely: (1) Compile a region-wide information on ECD programs and activities, policies and regulations as well as their impacts on student nutrition;  (2) Maintain a user-friendly platform for gathering and sharing of ECD learning  resource materials, experiences and expertise for ECE teachers and related stakeholders including academic partners, and policymakers in the region; (3) Conduct advocacies to integrate ECD activities in ECE centers and similar settings, and (4) Conduct harmonized capacity building activities for ECE teachers and related stakeholders in the region.

The first day of the workshop consisted of country presentations on ECDP policies, programs, best practices and challenges, overview and discussions of the SEA-ECDP Working Group’s implementing guidelines, and formulation of action plans for the next three years.  The country presenters and their organizational affiliations were  Ms. Hajah Nur Amalina binti Haji Sidik (Ministry of Education, Brunei Darussalam),  Ms. Thong Chanchhada (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Cambodia),  Mr. Aria Ahmad Mangunwibawa, S.Psi., M.Si and Ms. Beryana Evridawati, S.Pt., M.Pd (Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology, Indonesia),  Dr. Phoutong Rattanavong (Ministry of Health, Lao PDR),  Dr Mardziah Binti Abdullah (Ministry of Education, Malaysia),  Dr. Lwin Mar Hlaing (Ministry of Health, National Unity Government of Myanmar),  Ms. Ma. Katrina M. Libron (Early Childhood Care Development Council, Philippines),  Ms. Irene Lee (Early Childhood Development Agency, Singapore),  and Ms. Wongduan  Suwansiri  (Office of the Basic Education Commission, Thailand).

The county presentations revealed common areas needing improvements in ECDP implementation in the region, namely: advocacy and enforcement of government regulations, coordination among concerned institutions in various sectors, building the competencies of ECD teachers versus limited number of specialists to provide capacity building, availability of standard and comprehensive ECD curriculum and learning materials/tools, parents education and engagement, provision of ECD services to both urban and rural households/ communities, differences in ECD services among ECD providers within a country, accreditation of ECD education centres/pre-schools, ECD databanking, and monitoring and evaluation of ECD programs and activities.   These common concerns as well as the functions of the SEA-ECDP Working Group became the basis for the action plan development.

The second day of the workshop was devoted to presenting the action plans and the ways forward for   SEA-ECDP Working Group to start operating including obtaining the commitment of the institutions represented during the workshop and developing proposals for each of the action plans identified.