In one of his first speaking roles as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, the
Hon. Geoffrey Hanley, this week addressed education ministers of UN Member States,
education experts of international organisations and private stakeholders at the UNESCO- organised World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education (WCECCE), held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
In a pre-recorded statement on behalf of the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Hon.
Geoffrey Hanley joined other UN-member education ministers from across the globe in
outlining the challenges and policy orientations relating to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Some 1500 participants are taking part in the World Conference, which will provide an
important forum for policy exchange and scale-up of proven programmes and innovations on ECCE across all regions and countries.
The Deputy Prime Minister set the tone of his government’s ECCE focus in seeking to align
the Federation’s policy framework by adopting internationally-recognised ECCE standards in
developing appropriate pedagogy and practice of Early Childhood Education. But, he
stressed that such policies “needed to be adapted and distinctly tailored to the context of a small island developing state, such as ours”.
Dr. Hanley, as one of the few SIDS education ministers to address the conference, noted
that his Government had prioritised Early Childhood Education by creating a dedicated Early Childhood Development Unit for the management and delivery of a variety of services.Further, the Federation had consistently devoted over 12% of its annual education budget to early childhood care, making St. Kitts and Nevis the highest enrolment-rated ECCE country in the Eastern Caribbean region, according to UNESCO’s 2016 study of the Federation’s education framework.
Notwithstanding this performance, the Ministry of Education stressed that access to ECCE services may be compromised for children from low-income families due to financial constraints within the families. Minister Hanley emphasised the commitment to provide fees support to families to facilitate equitable access to quality early childhood development and education services for such children.
The newly-elected Government of St. Kitts and Nevis continues to recognize that, as a small island state, policy and implementation challenges remained. Dr. Hanley referred to research findings in small islands that suggest that role multiplicity, as well as a relative lack of trained expertise, funding and resources all impact negatively on the pedagogy and practices of Early Childhood Development.
Referring to the current and proposed provisions of UNESCO expertise, Minister Hanley stated that :”Besides the major scaling-up of the St. Kitts and Nevis professionalization and capacity development and framework of our teachers – with the assistance from UNESCO – we are also seeking , again, hopefully with UNESCO’s expertise – to enhance our early childhood and care education framework”.
He went on to say that together with UNESCO, my government seeks to explore the
following orientations in ECCE policy development”:
• Developing comprehensive descriptions of knowledge, skills, and dispositions that
ECCE teachers need to support holistic development of children
• Providing systematic and consistent structure and content to support the
professional development of the early childhood teaching and the child-care
• Incorporating into our professionalization framework appropriate teacher quality
assurance mechanisms that are more responsive to the context of the Caribbean
In concluding, Deputy Prime Minister Hanley underlined that, “Driving these policy
orientations is the irrefutable evidence that shows that participation in early care and
education programmes can confer significant benefits on children – with the greatest benefits redounding to children from disadvantaged backgrounds – and extending to families, communities, and the Federation as a whole”
St. Kitts and Nevis’ Ambassador to UNESCO, H.E. David P. Doyle, remarked, “It is clear that
to take us to the next level of an optimal early childhood care and education policy, St. Kitts
and Nevis seeks to draw not only upon ECCE best practices from other small island regions, but also on UNESCO’s unique expertise in this domain”.
Ms. Dorothy Warner, Secretary-General of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Commission for
UNESCO stated: “We are immensely proud of the fact that Dr. Hanley, was offered this
opportunity to articulate the Federation’s Early Childhood Development Unit’s (ECDU) policy
priorities, which could be the object of a proposal to UNESCO for assistance. This comes alongside existing innovative of UNESCO’s interventions here on the ground to
professionalise the teaching force and enhance the accreditation regime for higher
The UNESCO world early childhood care and education conference included policy
interventions by Heads of State and Government and UNESCO Director-General, followed by four high-level sessions over 15-16 November, around the main thematic areas of (1) inclusion, quality, and wellbeing, (2) educators, teachers and caregivers, (3) policy, governance and finance, and (4) innovations. Each of the high-level plenary sessions will comprise two parts: panel discussion and national statement segments. The panel discussions will provide a space for Ministers of Member States and executives of
international organizations to exchange views on the four thematic areas of the Conference.
The national statements will shed light on progress, challenges and opportunities.
The WECCE conference marked a milestone in UNESCO’s efforts at highlighting the
importance of early childhood care and education as the fundamental basis for future
compulsory education across all UN Member States. The specific objectives of the
conference encompassed the following:
• Take stock of the progress of Member States towards achieving the SDG 4.2 target and other early childhood related SDGs targets.
• Exchange knowledge about key enablers, emerging research results, good practices, and innovations to put in place and scale up quality ECCE policies and programmes.
• Reaffirm quality ECCE as a right of all children and as the essential foundation for lifelong learning and socio-cognitive development.
• Identify opportunities, develop, and agree upon on a set of priorities and strategies to
accelerate SDG4.2 progress and increase investment in ECCE on the part of governments and their partners.
• Further strengthen global partnership and solidarity for the cause of early childhood to
expand and improve ECCE services in all Member States to help all children attain their full potential.