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Setting Standards for Early Childhood Services

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Contact: Richmond Felix

unicef.jpg (4049 bytes)March 5, 1999 - The United Nations Childrenís Fund (UNICEF) is assisting the Government of St. Lucia in developing early Childhood Services. The first step of the process is to establish standards for preschool services.

UNICEF representative attached to the Caribbean Child Development Centre, Sian Willams says there is also need to embrace some of the practices currently used in the day care sector. Mrs. Williams was the main facilitator of a workshop held Thursday on proposed standards for the regulation of early childhood services. The event saw the participation of 25 Child Welfare and Development Agencies and Institutions. Among the various issues discussed include childcare practices, quality of care and education for children up to age 5, health and safety, the physical environment and staffing.

According to Williams, the discussion was extremely lively. "They saw the real potential for agreeing on a common base for improving the quality of service that they offer, and so that they can be consistent as a group. We have to work hard to create a sensible strategy for improvement and carefully look at the time scales for that. This isnít a quick fix, it (the workshop) is a solid planning base," says Williams.

At the conclusion of the workshop, a draft document for early childhood services was drawn up. The document will in effect start off the process for consultation on the way forward. It will be examined in April during a symposium organized jointly by the Ministries of Education and Community Development, which will bring together all the stakeholders involved in early childcare services. After the symposium, the various preschools will be charged with the responsibility of taking the standards to a number of district meetings. The meetings, which will be held in the months of May and June, will primarily target the users of childcare services.

The work being undertaken to establish standards for the regulation of early childhood services is closely tied to some of the provisions of the draft Education Act, which has already gone before Parliament for first reading.

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