The ECC’s new NSP, replaces the previous NSP 2008/2013, which officially ended on September 30 this year. The Government has increased its budgetary support of early childhood and special education from three per cent to some 14.6 per cent or $11 billion for financial year 2013/2014. The development of early childhood education in Jamaica remains a significant focus of the Government and forms part of its strategic priorities for this financial year. Story Highlights Acting Executive Director of the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), Michelle Campbell, is calling on members of the public and private sectors to explore ways of increasing support to early childhood development in Jamaica.Speaking to JIS News in an interview recently, Mrs. Campbell says that while the Commission remains resolute in fulfilling its mandate to improve and develop the early childhood education sector, funding support remains a major challenge.“As an agency of the Ministry of Education, we are very limited on the resources that we can provide. We have our mandate, but we need financial support. We need the public and private stakeholders to come together and invest in early childhood education,” she remarks.She acknowledges that the churches and other private entities have supported the institutions, “but we now feel that it is time that everyone comes together and look at this as a long-term investment.”The development of early childhood education in Jamaica remains a significant focus of the Government and forms part of its strategic priorities for this financial year.As such, the Government has increased its budgetary support of early childhood and special education from three per cent to some 14.6 per cent or $11 billion for financial year 2013/2014.According to the Ministry of Education, this increase is in recognition of the crucial role the sector plays in the overall success of the education system.Mrs. Campbell notes that while this increase is welcomed, much more is needed for the optimal performance of the sector. She urges public and private sector groups to form partnerships with the ECC and the Ministry of Education to invest in early childhood education, pointing out that this is an investment not only in the people of Jamaica, but also in the overall development of the country.“You won’t always see the results right away, but you will see the result 20 years from now, when that child is an adult. You will see the result of your investment, when our children are educated, when they have jobs that can support their families, when they become productive citizens, giving back to their communities and their country,” she points out.Mrs. Campbell also encourages individuals and small groups to donate their time and resources to the early childhood institutions in their communities, noting that all contributions are welcomed, no matter how big or small.“It’s amazing when you have individuals calling in to donate fire extinguishers to institutions, though it might seem small, it is a huge donation, because that’s a part of the ECC’s standards – making sure that our institutions are safe,” she states.“The donation of books is also appreciated, because in the classroom we promote pre-reading skills. The children need the books so they can learn how to turn the pages and know what words and letters look like,” she points out.The Acting Executive Director informs that finance and resource mobilisation is one of the main focus areas under the Commission’s newly implemented National Strategic Plan (NSP) 2013/2018.The ECC’s new NSP, replaces the previous NSP 2008/2013, which officially ended on September 30 this year. The plan was developed with funding support from the World Bank.It also focuses on public education, which aims to increase public awareness to drive and foster greater support and involvement in early childhood development initiatives across the country.“Our stakeholders felt that the Commission was not out in the public enough, that persons were not aware of the functions of the Commission and what we do for the sector. So we developed a whole new internal process under public education and this will help us to reach our stakeholders, such as our parents and the wider public,” Mrs. Campbell points out.The new plan also includes elements that were brought over from the NSP 2008/2013, which include parenting; preventative health care; screening and early intervention for children and families at risk; high quality early childhood institutions; and trained early childhood practitioners.Mrs. Campbell points out that the ECC’s NSP is aligned with the Ministry of Education’s own National Strategic Plan, in an effort to ensure that it provides maximum support to the Ministry and the sector.“The areas that we focus on all speak to the Ministry’s plans. We also report monthly, quarterly and yearly to the Ministry to ensure that they are aware of all our activities,” she says.“We also have a board member, who sits on the board of the Ministry of Education, so they are well aware of our activities and provide us with guidance. We are following their plan and their vision for the sector,” Mrs. Campbell informs.In the meantime, she tells JIS News that the Commission is quite pleased with the Ministry’s increased focus on early childhood education, “because it now places us at a stage where everyone realises how important early childhood education is to our country’s development”.“The Minister clearly understands the development of the whole child and how different the learning experiences are for each student and this is a critical aspect of early childhood education,” she says.The ECC was established in 2003 by the Early Childhood Commission Act. Its functions include advising the Minister on policy matters relating to early childhood care, education and development in Jamaica, including initiatives and actions to achieve national early childhood development goals; assisting in the preparation of plans and programmes concerning early childhood development; and monitoring and evaluating the system.