ECD & Social Protection
Improving the care and education of young children; ensuring support to strengthen families
While early childhood programs (ECD) in Nepal enroll over 60% of 3-5 year olds in urban areas, care and education programs in rural areas is limited; the quality of available programs is highly variable and poorly monitored; and little is known of the impact of these programs on the well-being and long term school readiness of children. The level of awareness on the importance of ECD is still low, especially in the most disadvantaged communities. While some programs such as the Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) exist to support the poor, they are limited in scope and inadequate in tackling the multifaceted and deep problems of poverty and deprivation. Effective family focused policies, especially for those who are most disadvantaged, are yet to be explored and implemented for a wider impact.
There is overwhelming evidence that critical to addressing human development challenges is the investment in the consistent care and education of young children. Early experiences are ‘embedded in the development of the brain and produce lifelong impacts on learning, behavior, and physical and mental well-being. New scientific research shows that environmental influences can actually affect whether and how genes are expressed’ (Shonkoff, 2009). It is, therefore, critical to re-examine the importance of how Nepal cares for its young children and design policies and programs that are consistent with the findings from latest research. In this context, it is vital that social and cultural dimensions of child rearing practices and development concepts are seriously considered as approaches are devised for supporting the development of young children (LeVine, 1996, 2010). Standards in service delivery require review, as well as options for rigorous monitoring and accreditation systems of care giving facilities. It is also critical to explore policy and program options to support and strengthen families, so that they become more effective caregivers. Investment in these early years form a sound foundation for children as they progress through their schools years and into the world of work. The Center collaborates with leading universities and institutions specialized in these areas, focusing on research, impact evaluation, and longitudinal studies.