Early Childhood in Sri Lanka is generally considered to be the period from conception to age 5. Early Childhood Development (ECD) services in Sri Lanka can be divided into two groups which are home based and center based. Home based services include parental care for the 0-3 years age group and center based services for children in the 3-5 age group. Most of the ECD centers are managed by the private sector and Non-governmental Organizations. The central government agency with primary responsibility for overseeing ECD service delivery is the Children’s Secretariat housed within the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs (MWCA). As per the project appraisal document there are number of issues faced by the ECD sector. Some of the key issues are listed below.

  • Poor quality of physical facilities and inputs.
  • Poor quality of the ECD teaching force.
  • Inadequate national standards compliance and monitoring system for quality management.
  • Child under-nutrition.
  • Low coverage.
  • Inequitable access.

In order to find solutions for the above mentioned problems the MWCA along with the support of the World Bank launched the Early Childhood Project on the 1st of March 2016.

The objective of the project is to provide equitable access to and improve the quality of early childhood development services.

The primary beneficiaries of the project are children attending ECD centers. Other direct beneficiaries include ECD teachers and ECD administrators. The indirect project beneficiaries include families of children enrolled in ECD programs, contractors of ECD facility improvement schemes and suppliers of teaching learning material.

In order to improve the quality of ECD provision in Sri Lanka, the Project will support quality management, improvement of ECD facilities, provision of teaching-learning materials, and the training of ECD teachers, teacher assistants, and trainers. It will also provide some support for activities aimed at improving the health and nutritional status of children enrolled in ECD centers.

The Project will finance the revision of the curriculum framework and child development standards that are meant to guide the teaching-learning processes in ECD centers. To measure the improvements made towards meeting child development standards, all project supported centers will be required to conduct annual child development assessments

It will support the development and selection of age-appropriate teaching learning materials for 3-5 year old children and teachers in the Sinhalese, Tamil and English languages.

The Project will also support the development of a compact set of prioritized minimum quality standards for ECD centers based on the government’s existing quality standards. The Project will also support the development of ECD resource centers at the Provincial level by upgrading or extending existing facilities.

To help improve the physical quality of center facilities, eligible state- and non-state-run ECD centers across the country will receive grants from the Project for minor civil works and for upgrading equipment and furniture.

Such support for minor civil works will focus on construction of toilets, water connections for sanitation, and refurbishment of facilities. The broad categories of equipment, consumables and furniture that can be provided to centers by the Project include play area equipment, toys, water filters, safety equipment, and equipment for children with special needs, equipment for administrative support, consumable classroom materials, and basic furniture for students and teachers.

Furthermore the Project will support the provision of age appropriate, high-quality teaching-learning materials to eligible state- and non-state-run centers across the country. The Project Management Unit (PMU) will prepare a standard package of play-oriented educational materials such as toys, blocks and shapes, different types of puzzles, and measuring devices, and distribute them to the centers.

The training of trainers (TOT) program supported by the Project will prepare the necessary pool of trainers to deliver short-term training across the nation.

Support for poor students channeled through ECD centers: The Project will support fee waivers for poor households to help them enroll their 3-5 year old children in both state- and non-state-run ECD centers. 

Parental awareness and interaction programs-The Project will support the development of standardized program modules as well as the regular delivery of these programs across the country. These programs will include awareness programs for enhancing parents’ understanding of holistic childhood development; interaction programs for guided parental experience; and parent education programs to enhance parenting practices.

Source: Project Appraisal Document