Calling for Institutionalized Early Childhood Programs in Palestine
When we think about providing programs for early childhood, we often look at the benefits for the children’s individual futures. But pre-school programs are powerful tools that enable nations to build human capacity systematically by designing programs that allow for the transmission of knowledge and skills, as well as the motivation to help people contribute efficiently to the growth and development of their societies. Preschool education has been defined as “the education given in an educational institution to children aged 3-5 years prior to their entering primary school.”
Research from all over the world has shown through longitudinal studies that working with children during early childhood is one of the best ways to improve a community. Many communities have tried to build programs that reflect the importance of early childhood education. Still, the lack of implementation all over the world around early childhood programs is surprising, given the available information about how powerful these programs are. As an example, even in the United States, where scientists have produced much research about the effects of early childhood education, they are still struggling to convince three states to include kindergarten in public schools. Even in the other 47 states, only one year before elementary school (kindergarten) is provided in public schools. This shows that governments, even in the US, are not devoting enough effort and budget to these programs.
In Palestine, we have two problems. First, there is a lack of research showing how early childhood programs will meet our community’s unique needs and environment. Second, a culture of early childhood in the community and among decision makers does not exist. In a draft of the strategic plan for the Ministry of Higher Education (2011-2013), they added pre-school to their agenda for the first time. Nevertheless, the plan states that they want to open only a very limited number of pre-schools, and the budget was not clear.
As an NGO providing non-formal education, TYO believes in building strong Palestinian institutions to provide early childhood education. We recognize every child’s right to education, and would like to see programs like TYO’s Core Child Program available to every child in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As one NGO, we cannot reach all of the children who need opportunities for early childhood education. To that end, we should work intensively with the government and other like-minded NGOs and citizens to build comprehensive public programs that will enable every young child to reach his or her high potential.
Suhad Jabi is the Psychosocial Program Manager at TYO.