Early Childhood Development
Focus area: Education
One third of children around the world - and half of Africa’s children - do not complete five years of primary school. I Have Potential is the Foundation's first-ever campaign that raises awareness and directs funds towards its early childhood development programs in Asia and Africa. Early childhood development programs target children from before birth to the age of eight years and are concerned with ensuring that children have a good start in life and address health and nutrition. They offer opportunities for enjoyable learning and promote a sense of identity and self-worth.
Why Does it Matter?
Investment in the early years offers outstanding returns – both in human and financial terms. Children who get a good start do better in school, are healthier, and function better as adults. The early years are critical in the formation of intelligence, personality, social behavior and physical development.
The Foundation has been a pioneer in promoting early childhood development for decades. Beginning in the mid-1980s, the Foundation has worked to ensure adequate early care and to strengthen young children’s confidence and enthusiasm for learning-benefits that stay with them into the future. With its child-centered approach and culturally appropriate curricula, the Foundation's model East Africa preschool program has grown to over 200 preschools, training 6,000 teachers and 3,000 school management committee members and reaching over 65,000 children.
Click on a region or country below to learn more.
Now internationally recognized, the Foundation initiated its preschool program in Mombasa, Kenya in the mid-1980s. The program establishes Resource Centers that help poor communities develop skills in preschool management, funding and teacher training. These preschools use low-cost/no-cost teaching tools made from locally available materials. Produced by teachers, students and community members, these tools decrease costs and ensure there are enough materials for each student. Today, more than 200 poor communities in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are successfully managing their own preschools. The program has also benefited close to 60,000 young children– 50% of whom are girls and trained more than 5,000 young women as teachers.
The Releasing Confidence and Creativity (RCC) program is improving education and empowering women in Pakistan. The program infuses child-centered teaching techniques into katchi (kindergarten) classes and grades 1 and 2. Parents and community members are active participants in the RCC program. They construct facilities and help produce learning materials, investing them in the program and ensuring its survival after Foundation aid ceases. Funded by USAID, the program also trains local women as para-professionals, allowing them to contribute to positive changes in their village. The RCC model is now being replicated on a wider basis through government schools in Pakistan.
The Foundation's early childhood interventions in Kyrgyzstan are implemented through the Mountain Societies Development Support Program. Beginning in 2005, MSDSP piloted cost efficient programs that increase access to early childhood education. Using half-day shifts, more children were able to receive an education at less cost to parents and the government. Additionally to reach the most remote communities, the program established satellite kindergartens in pre-existing community spaces - transforming extra rooms in schools and teachers’ homes into learning centers for young children. Children who went through this program scored significantly better than their non-early childhood development peers in speaking, writing, and mathematics.
With the collapse of the Soviet system, the Tajik education system was no longer able to provide support to schools and ensure that teachers received continuous professional development. Since 1995 the Foundation, with its local partner The Institute for Professional Development of GBAO (IPD-GBAO), has been actively involved in revitalizing the region’s education by integrating diverse education projects into the school system. The Zero Grade Program is one of the projects designed to improve teachers’ skills and train them to use an interactive curriculum. The project was piloted during the 2006-2007 school year and benefited 23 Zero Grade teachers. Through the program, the teachers were introduced to various innovative approaches such as establishing “free play corners” in the classrooms and using activities tailored to develop students critical thinking skills. In addition, IPD developed a series of textbooks for Zero Grade classes.
In India in 1989, Aga Khan Education Services launched the School Improvement Programme to improve pre-school and primary classes using child-centered, activity based lessons. This led to the development of the Programme for Enrichment of School Level Education in 1999, initiated in collaboration with the European Commission. Currently, the program provides technical and financial support for innovative NGO projects in select Indian States. The program focuses on children from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, aiming to provide equal opportunity for all.
The Foundation's Partnership for Advancing Community Education in Afghanistan works with the Afghan government and other organizations to improve the quality of basic education and to increase gender equity. One critical area of the Foundation's education program in Afghanistan is teacher training, with special emphasis on expanding the number of women teachers. Female teachers encourage higher enrollment levels for girls, as families are more likely to send their girls to school when taught by a woman. The program also helps build the long-term capacity of local civil society organizations, enabling them to support and sustain community-based education. The Foundation is working with various partners to reach these goals, including CARE, International Rescue Committee, Catholic Relief Services, and the Academy for Educational Development. This program builds on Aga Khan Development Network's Education Support Program started in 2003, which benefited 91,802 students in 194 primary schools.