With several of the Global Goals focused on young children, including a target for expanding equitable and quality early childhood services for all, positive pressure on countries to raise access and improve quality of diverse forms of provisions for young children is likely to increase in the coming years. The ability to recruit, retain, and support qualified workers in early childhood settings is critical for ensuring that these Goals are met. Yet, limited information is available on the early childhood workforce, including their training and professional development, practices, and working conditions in low- and middle-income countries.
To drive forward the global effort to support and strengthen the early childhood workforce, Results for Development (R4D) with initial funding from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, and the ELMA Foundation has partnered with the International Step by Step Association to launch the Early Childhood Workforce Initiative.
The initiative is a new global effort to support and empower those who work with families and young children under age 8, as well as those who supervise and mentor frontline workers. This initiative works at the level of country systems and policies to strengthen four thematic areas essential to workforce development:
- Competences and standards
- Training and professional development
- Monitoring and support for continuous quality improvement
- Recognition of the profession.
Supporting the Early Childhood Workforce: Spotlight on 6 Countries
These six country studies focus on a range of roles including professionals and paraprofessionals, paid and unpaid workers, and frontline workers and managers, from the education, health and nutrition, and social and child protection sectors.
The Early Childhood Workforce Initiative approaches the workforce issue in a holistic, multi-sectoral manner and focuses on those who work with families and children under 8 years of age, such as home visitors, teachers, paraprofessionals, as well as those who supervise and mentor frontline workers: trainers, coaches, program managers. By engaging existing and emerging regional early childhood networks, as well as policymakers and other relevant groups, the initiative aims to support knowledge creation and sharing as well as collaborative learning activities.
Current activities include:
- Country Briefs: Developing a compendium of briefs which highlight how six diverse countries are attempting to support and scale their quality early childhood workforces. These briefs identify factors which have facilitated the introduction of new policies and programs, barriers to implementation, and cross-cutting lessons to help policymakers and practitioners overcome related obstacles in their own countries. In many cases, this is the first time these approaches have been documented and they serve to increase the global knowledge base on the early childhood workforce, as well as help frame the learning agenda for the initiative.
- Collaborative learning: Bringing together country representatives and diverse, global experts to identify shared challenges, learn from innovative and promising practices, and co-develop knowledge and practical resources that can be incorporated and embedded at scale in national systems and policies.
- Online portal: Documenting global, regional, and local workforce initiatives and housing and disseminating research, training packages and other key resources on a new online portal. The portal also serves as an online space to host peer learning activities, such as webinars, where policymakers, training providers, practitioners, experts, researchers and representatives of civil society can learn about new promising approaches, research, and tools relevant to addressing workforce challenges.
- Home Visiting Workforce Needs Assessment Tool: Developing a tool that helps government agencies and implementation partners reflect on the ways in which they can support personnel delivering home visiting programs across sectors for pregnant mothers and caregivers with children under 3. This tool was fueled by key informant interviews (KIIs) across 15 countries that reinforced the fact that government officials and program managers lack access to basic data on the workforce and desire additional information to support and strengthen the workforce.The tool aims to help policymakers at the national or sub-national levels:
- Understand current workforce development policies and practices, including existing training options, supervision, working conditions, etc.
- Identify areas of strength and gaps in the current system related to support for the workforce.
- Prioritize areas for government attention for supporting and strengthening the workforce taking into consideration cost, feasibility, and potential for impact.
To learn more, visit www.earlychildhoodworkforce.org.