The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in Pakistan has been supporting Early Childhood Development (ECD) initiatives for many years, and was amongst the first organisations in the country to recognise the critical and long-term impact of ECD for individuals and society. The day-to-day operations of the ECD initiatives are undertaken by the Aga Khan Foundation, Pakistan [AKF(Pak)], and the Aga Khan Education Services, Pakistan (AKES,P).
AKES,P aims to ensure access of children aged 2-8 years to quality early childhood programmes and services as part of the AKDN ECD strategy for Pakistan. For this purpose, it provides pre-school and early primary education in the remote areas of Gilgit-Baltistan, Chitral and in some parts of Sindh. More recently, it has launched a 100-hour Certificate Programme for the capacity development of early childhood classroom practitioners. In addition, teachers are given ECD training through AKU-IED, AKU-HDP and online courses. AKES,P’s ECD curriculum for children aged 2-8 years is based on international High Scope practices and aligned with the National Curriculum standards. Five main areas of learning guide the educators and teachers in supporting and extending children’s development in an integrated and child-directed environment. This internationally recognised early years approach is founded on child development theory and supported by over three decades of research. Each day children are guided to develop skills in:
- Approaches to learning
- Language, literacy and communication
- Social and emotional development
- Physical development, well-being and health
- Arts, mathematics and sciences
Early Childhood Development (ECD) is also one of the core areas and programmes the Aga Khan Foundation (Pakistan) [AKF(Pak)] has undertaken to ensure the best start in life for children.
The AKF(Pak) has made substantive contributions in the ECD sector while supporting the government’s efforts to improve access to and quality of early childhood development. Over the past year, its comprehensive programmes, the ‘Releasing, Confidence and Creativity’ and ‘Balochistan Early Childhood Development’, have positioned AKF as a knowledge broker and leader in the development of ECD programmes. The project approach works to influence the environments affecting the child, family, community, school and policy, so that they are supportive of young children’s overall development. The Balochistan ECD programme aims to enhance access, equity and quality of education for all, with an increased gender parity, participation and sustainability of community interventions. It focuses on the enhancement of the learning abilities of children in their early years, capacity development of key stake holders, increasing involvement of community in ECD interventions through parenting education, and networking and coordination for sustainability, advocacy, resource mobilization, and sharing of best practices. The AKF(Pak) has proved to have a very strong system of technical assistance, follow-up, and monitoring and evaluation. The evaluation of the Balochistan ECD Programme has determined the effectiveness of the programme in respect to stated project goals and objectives. Achievements include:
- provision of 40 new rooms in 30 government schools
- strong ECD environment benefitting 10,907 students
- increased attendance and retention rates.
- enhanced children’s learning and increased community and parental involvement
- 75 new ECD trained teachers inducted as regular teachers in the government system in addition to 105 ECD teachers regularized under RCC programme.
- developed technical competencies of 397 teachers and 211 government officials.
- quality holistic parenting education provided to 1165 families through three Family Resource Centres.
- strengthened regular supervision, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms
- dissemination of early childhood development information and resources;
Through the ECD programmes in Pakistan, significant efforts are being made to provide young minds a healthy start in life.