Early literacy, early numeracy and social-emotional development are three weak areas in ECCDs  

Training: To deliver comprehensive and quality Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) services to children with a focus on improving foundational skills on early literacy and early math skills, a weeklong refresher training for 233 ECCD facilitators from 10 dzongkhags is being conducted in Paro.

Organised by Save the Children, Bhutan and the education ministry, the training on implementing the Emergent Literacy and Math (ELM) project began from July 1.

Save the Children focal person, Karma Dyenka, said the organisation has been working on the ECCD programme with the education ministry for the last eight years. A curriculum for ECCD and a training manual already exists, which the facilitators follow during the classes.

“In 2012, we conducted a school readiness assessment at the Royal Bhutan Police’s ECCD centre for three years where we assessed over a hundred children. At the end of the study, we found out that with the gains from attending ECCD at an early age, the children were also weak in three areas; early literacy, early numeracy and social-emotional development,” Karma Dyenka said. “These findings were particularly substantiated by the national ECCD impact evaluation study that we conducted in 2015. In that particular study, the same weak areas were revealed.”

Along with the education ministry, we decided to implement the ELM project, under which five components under early literacy and five components under early math were identified. These components will be implemented in ECCDs across the country through the training, Karma Dyenka said.

“There are five each necessary foundational skills that the children should learn in early literacy and early maths under the ELM project, which are a part of the training manual,” Karma Dyenka said. “The ELM project will support children from three to five in acquiring these foundational skills through play-based activities. This will in turn strengthen their school readiness skills so that they become ready for primary school and beyond.”

Talking and listening, understanding print, knowing what books are, understanding about words and sounds, and knowing about alphabets were the five foundational skills identified under early literacy. Learning patterns, numbers and counting, sorting and classification, comparison,  measurement and geometry were five foundational skills identified under early math, which will strengthen and develop learning of maths.

A basic training under the ELM project was already provided to the 195 ECCD facilitators in 10 dzongkhags at the beginning of this year. The remaining dzongkhags will be trained by January next year.

With the basic training already conducted, the facilitators had three months to implement the ELM project in their centres. During our monitoring visits, we found out that there were still some areas that needed more capacity building, Karma Dyenka said.

“We realised that facilitators needed more trainings on how to teach children to identify sounds and words that are similar, how to recognise letters of the alphabets of Dzongkha and English and also training facilitators to incorporate more of ELM project by implementing more activities into their daily lesson plans,” Karma Dyenka said.

Programme officer with the education ministry, Karma Gayleg, said looking at the findings from the two studies, in early literacy domain, children made the strongest gains in oral comprehension and weakest in the area of phonemic awareness. Similarly, in early math, children had the strongest gains in shape identification and puzzle completion but weakest in number identification since children simply memorised the numbers.

“Through this project, we hope to implement high quality ECCD services to support the development of young children’s foundational literacy, numeracy, cognitive, linguistic, social-emotional and motor skills, and better prepare them for primary school,” Karma Gayleg said.

The refresher training also aims to provide professional development of ECCD facilitators, establish a functional network of ECCD facilitators in enhancing quality of ELM project through knowledge sharing and provide the facilitators with basic ELM materials such as storybooks and stationaries, Karma Gayleg said.

Thinley Zangmo