Early Childhood Education (ECE)
Early Childhood Education plays a critical role in child development and contributes to school readiness and reduced school attrition, especially in the first two years, as well as improved learning outcomes. Despite the positive impacts of investing in ECE, since the formulation of the outgoing ESSP, very little progress has been made in this subsector. This could be a reflection of the particular nature of the sector in Somaliland, where pre- and early primary education is intimately linked with Quranic education.
Whilst Quranic education instils a sound spiritual and moral foundation through acquisition of knowledge of the Holy Quran, it is not intended to prepare children for Primary education per se. Another critical element is the complex relationship between MOEHS driven policy and other responsible bodies, notably the Ministry of Religion and Endowment (MORE), which is presently mandated to govern the Quranic schools.
Close collaboration between the two ministries is required to streamline the relationship between the Quranic Schools and the formal pre-primary ECE to achieve a generally agreed policy and strategy by all concerned stakeholders. Most importantly, the ESA and subsequent validation discussions suggest a very low status or value that the public places on formal ECE.
Enrollment Levels and Equity
There is a general lack of comprehensive data on ECE which, coupled with the lack of comprehensive birth registration, makes it difficult to determine the enrolment levels and the demand for ECE services in Somaliland. It is worth recognizing that the proportion of pre-primary school aged children (3-5) attending Quranic school and kindergarten is reported to be very low as Quranic schools also cater for older children. The majority of those children enrolled in Quranic schools is outside the ECE age bracket and are simultaneously attending primaryschool29. In addition, the nature of the pastoral/nomadic lifestyle of a majority of the Somali community limits their access to ECE services (roughly 34% of the total population of Somalis are nomadic/pastoralist). Another factor limiting access to ECE is the cost of education, as both forms of education, Quranic and formal, charge school fees. Whereas, the fees in Quranic schools are moderate and affordable for most, fees charged by kindergartens, especially the privately managed ones, are relatively high. This serves as a barrier to the majority of households.
Teacher-Caregiver Training and Curriculum
Presently, there is no curriculum for ECE teacher training available and no clear training policy or strategy for ECE teachers and caregivers. In institutional terms the nearest choice for training teachers would be the proposed National Teacher Training Institute (NTTI), for which a modular competency-based (outcome oriented) curriculum development approach has been recommended. The ECE modules would need to be specific to this level and age group and not be confused with training of lower primary teachers. In addition to proposing a competency-based approach, the curriculum for the children should contain components of the Quranic-school teachings, as this can smoothen the anticipated transition process, i.e. the transition to the MOEHS eventually exercising full authority and quality assurance over both Quranic and ECE elements and can lead to some integration of Quranic teaching as preparation for early childhood education.
Quality of Services Provision
The quality of services in kindergarten and Quranic schools seems to be compromised by key determinants impacting on quality such as lack of a standardized ECE curriculum, untrained teachers, outdated teaching/learning approaches and inadequate use of play and learning materials. Because the MOEHS has yet to address the data management, monitoring and quality assurance needs of the sector, there is no data to conduct a robust analysis on quality issues referred to here.
Community Perceptions on ECE
Lack of understanding by communities of the scope of ECE has resulted in the assumption that attending Quranic School fulfils the requirement for ECE. This suggests the need for a wide-ranging awareness raising campaign to address these beliefs and explain how ECE includes essential preparation for formal schooling.
Service Delivery Channels
There are three main channels that can be referred to as channels for early learning programmes in Somaliland. These are categorized according to management and type of service as follows:
- Traditional Quranic school (TQS);
- Integrated Quranic schools (IQS); and
- Kindergartens (KG).
Whereas the TQS are found in both urban and rural areas and at least in every village, the private KGs and IQSs are mainly located in urban centres. Most of the children enrolled (94%) are in the traditional Quranic schools that are more accessible as they are located within villages and charge lower fees than kindergartens. Only children from relatively privileged backgrounds access kindergartens. This calls for targeted interventions to be put in place to cater for poorer and marginalized children over the next five years.