QUALITY OF EARLY CHILD EDUCATION AND CARE IN LATIN AMERICA. EQUALITY FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW (Flavia Marco Navarro)

In Latin America there is a growing consensus about the importance of child education and care, both for the exercise of children rights today and for its effects in the future. There are also some awareness among social and political actors on the need to increase the coverage of institutionalized childcare and early education, very low in the region except some cases.

However, the awareness that these services need to be of quality, setting standards that are applicable to all services in order to avoid poor services for poor and better quality services for those who can afford them, does not seem to be very widespread. Besides knowledge and literature on the issue are very scarce and law difficult to access.

In this context, we consider questions such as:is the provision of these services in Latin America regulated? Which aspects are regulated? What are the differences between countries in this regard? We wanted to investigate the values, the different approaches and goals that accompany these regulations.

Therefore, the study – that we invite you to read –refers to regulations of childcare and early education in the countries of the region, comparing requirements and standards in various categories such as infrastructure, staff, security, food programs, among others.

The study is part of the activities carried out under the cooperation agreement between the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the EUROsociAL programme. The document is divided in five chapters. The first synthesizes the specific mention in international instruments of early childhood education, specifically in relation to quality. The second presents some notions and concepts that are used throughout the study, as well as arguments about the need to improve the quality of care services; the third chapter exposes ECEC coverage data in the countries of the region, together with comments on this issue of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; the fourth chapter summarizes and compares the content of national regulations on care and education. Finally, we formulate some conclusions and some challenges to move towards ECEC quality in the region.Some of the challenges are related to the institutions responsible for ECEC, which are different and often include several ministries, councils or other entities of different level. In addition to this, in several cases there is decentralized administration, which brings serious challenges for policies and for public management. In addition to this challenge, in all countries, there are others challenges such as the need of regulations or standards controls and a standardization of the quality between formal and informal care centers. In some cases, ECEC has to be regulated and standardized, both from the structure – as, for example, infrastructure requirements and qualification of personnel – andfrom the process, related to stimulation techniques, development assessment and responsiveness of caregivers and teachers. Also training of staff and adult-infant ratio deserves special attention since the weight exerted on child development.

Flavia Marco Navarro is consultant of the Social Development Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC)

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