The Early Childhood Commission
The Early Childhood Commission (ECC) was established by the Early Childhood Commission Act (2003), in keeping with the strategic goal of the Government of Jamaica to improve the quality of early childhood care, education and development within the early childhood sector.
The ECC, which is an agency of the Ministry of Education, coordinates all activities, development plans and programmes within the early childhood sector. This integrated approach is critical, as it serves to reduce fragmentation and duplication and has placed under one institutional umbrella, the regulations, standards and policies which govern the sector.
The operations of the ECC are primarily undertaken by three departments – Regulation and Monitoring, Sector Support Services and Cross Sectoral Coordination, which seek to ensure the effective implementation of policies and programmes within the early childhood sector.
The Regulation and Monitoring department has responsibility for the registration of early childhood institutions (ECIs), and monitors their operations, to ensure compliance with the regulations and standards governing the sector. The Sector Support Services department provides developmental support to ECIs and early childhood practitioners (ECPs). The Cross Sectoral Coordination department collaborates with Government ministries and sector partners to coordinate early childhood development programmes, as well as to provide support for community intervention initiatives.
The ECC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, other stakeholders and partners, has developed two National Strategic Plans; (NSP) 2008-2013 and (NSP) 2013-2018 which outline the guidelines for ensuring that children at the early childhood level are provided with the requisite support, in order for them to realize their full potential.
The National Strategic Plan (NSP) includes five areas of focus which serve to assist stakeholders in providing the relevant support and services that are required for the proper growth and development of our children.
These areas are:
- Effective parenting education and support
- Effective preventative health care
- Early and effective screening, diagnosis and intervention for ‘at risk’ children
- The provision of safe, learner-centred, well-maintained ECI facilities
- Effective curriculum delivery
In order to achieve these goals, the right working environment must be in place to ensure the success of the NSP. This means that:
- All persons and organizations who work with children, or provide programmes and services for them, must work together to promote the established targets.
- Decisions on how to improve the quality of early childhood development in Jamaica must be based on timely, clear, current and accurate information.
Functions of the Early Childhood Commission
- Advising the Minister on policy matters relating to early childhood care, education and development in Jamaica, including initiatives and actions to achieve national early childhood development goals.
- Assisting in the preparation of plans and programmes concerning early childhood development.
- Monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the plans and programmes concerning early childhood development.
- Coordinating all activities relating to early childhood development.
- Supervising and regulating early childhood institutions.
- Convening consultations with relevant stakeholders as appropriate.
- Analyzing the resource needs and submit recommendations for budgetary allocations for early childhood development.
- Identifying alternative financing through negotiation with donor agencies and liaising with such agencies to ensure the effective and efficient use of donor funds.
- Conducting research on early childhood development.
Early Childhood Institutions
Currently, there are just under 2,800 ECIs in operation in Jamaica. Under the Early Childhood Act (2005), an ECI is defined as any place that cares for four or more children, under the age of six years, for up to six hours per day. This includes nurseries, day care centres, basic schools, kindergartens, infant schools and infant departments.
The Early Childhood Act (2005) and the Early Childhood Regulations (2005), describe the requirements that an ECI must meet in order to be registered by the ECC as a legally operating institution. The laws ensure that all ECIs provide the services that children need to grow and develop well. To guide compliance with the Act and Regulations, the ECC has developed a detailed document called ‘Standards for the Operation, Management and Administration of Early Childhood Institutions’ which is distributed to ECIs upon registration.
There are twelve (12) categories of standards for the operation of ECIs which are as follows:
The staff at early childhood institutions has the training, knowledge, skills and attitude to help children achieve their full potential.
- Development and Educational Programmes
Early childhood institutions have comprehensive programmes designed to meet the language, physical, cognitive, creative, socio-emotional, spiritual, cultural and school readiness needs of children.
- Interactions and Relationships with Children
Early childhood staff has the training, knowledge, skills and attitude to promote positive behaviours in children.
- Physical Environment
Early childhood institutions have physical environments that meet building, health and safety requirements, allow adequate space for children, and facilitate the development of children and staff.
- Indoor and Outdoor Equipment
Early childhood institutions have indoor and outdoor equipment and furnishings that are safe, child-friendly and promote the optimal development of children.
Early childhood institutions have physical facilities, policies, programmes and procedures that promote healthy lifestyles, and protect children and staff from illnesses.
Early childhood institutions provide children in their care with nutritious meals and model good nutritional practices for children and families.
Early childhood institutions provide safe indoor and outdoor environments for children, staff, stakeholders and visitors to the institution.
- Child Rights, Child Protection and Equality
Early childhood institutions uphold the rights of children and protect them from harm and also ensure that all children have equal access to services.
- Parent and Stakeholder Participation
The management and staff of early childhood institutions have good relationships with parents, caregivers, family members and the community.
Early childhood institutions have management structures that ensure good administration. There are plans, policies, procedures and programmes that ensure child, family and staff well-being.
Early childhood institutions have financial practices that adhere to standard accounting principles.