Reaching expert consensus on training different cadres in delivering early childhood development: technical report

Pearson, E.; Hendry, H.; Rao, N.; Aboud, F.; Horton, C.; Siraj, I.; Raikes, A. and Miyahara, J. (2017). Reaching expert consensus on training different cadres in delivering early childhood development: technical report. United Kingdom Department for International Development.



The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) signal a greater focus on inter-sectoral, collaborative approaches to ensuring that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality. This is reflected in the current global concern with promotion of holistic, community-based programmes to support early childhood development and wellbeing ? widely referred to as ?early childhood development? (ECD). Within this context, the study reported here sought to achieve consensus among 14 global experts on training needs for three groups of personnel (?cadres?) involved in delivery of early childhood development (ECD) programmes. The three cadre groups, identified via a comprehensive review of literature on current issues in the provision of ECD, comprise delivery of education, health and community-based early childhood interventions across a diverse range of low resource settings. The study responds to a gap in knowledge on training needs for ECD cadres, associated with a serious dearth of human resources to support provision of ECD services. Key challenges reported here, based on comprehensive review of available literature, include: 1. A long-running, severe global shortage in availability of cadres to support delivery of ECD programmes. 2. To date, delivery of key health and education interventions principally in siloes, with limited integration and practitioners/professionals/para-professionals widely employed in vertical programmes. 3. Low professional and social status of many ECD cadres, due to a lack of systematic recognition and support. This has resulted in large numbers of cadres with undefined career paths, and high rates of turnover / attrition2. In response, expert consensus points to the following potential strategies for enhancing provision of ECD cadres training and professional development: 1. Development of coherent systems to support ECD training and professional development. a. Findings indicate consensus around commonalities among and distinctions between essential skills and knowledge required for education professionals, health professionals and non-certified para-professional groups. These insights could provide a basis for establishing coherent, joined-up professional pathways and support systems for development of ECD cadres. b. Consensus around the respective roles of these three cadres is reflected in the distinct training needs outlined for each group. There is consensus that, while noncertified para-professionals require programme-specific training to facilitate delivery of particular tasks, certified education and health professionals require training in more advanced skills such as problem-solving and flexibility. Exposure to a range of different programmes and approaches is required for certified professionals, to facilitate informed decision making around programme development and adapting / responding to local contextual needs. These distinctions could provide a basis for establishing clarity in respective roles for ECD cadres with regard to programme delivery. c. Consensus around training needs across cadre groups is indicated, in particular the need for on-going mentoring and supervision. While there is acknowledgment among experts about complexities associated with provision of on-going support, consensus around this component of training was strongest among all aspects surveyed. This reflects widespread concern among participating experts, as well as within the literature, that short-term training for ECD cadres must be followed up with opportunities for continuing professional development and systematic support, to facilitate sustained effective practice. 2. Within systems for ECD cadres training, a strong focus on the importance of contextually grounded programmes, materials / resources and strategies for implementation. a. There is strong consensus that ECD cadres training should be contextually-grounded to ensure responsive, effective provision. Training should be based on and promote careful consideration of a range of factors that shape provision of ECD, including but not restricted to, policy, budgets, available resources, local values, beliefs and practices. 3. Adoption of the concept of nurturing care as an underpinning principle for provision of ECD cadres training. a. Delphi findings indicate consensus around essential dispositions, or attitudes, required to support caring, respectful, responsive and trustful interactions with children, caregivers and communities. They also indicate that all cadres require knowledge and skills in promoting early stimulation; child-centred learning and development; effective communication and collaboration; problem solving, and reflective practice. These strategies are outlined in the proposed framework provided below, which identifies unique roles / training needs for different cadre groups, as well as opportunities for enhancing integration across ECD cadres training systems. 3 Experts suggest that these ?dispositions?, which are essential for effective provision, should be viewed as malleable. Training should work / be designed to promote, model and strengthen these characteristics.

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