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For every child, an opportunity
Early Childhood Education (ECE) refers to organized programmes for young children before the start of grade 1 level education, often around age 6 in Pacific Island Countries. Participation in quality ECE is proven to establish strong foundations for learning and success in school and beyond, especially for the most vulnerable. Delivering quality ECE at scale requires the recognition of ECE as a comprehensive subsector that is integral to the education system, rather than an ‘add-on service’. Most Pacific Island countries have traditionally had less government oversight of ECE in comparison to other levels with ECE programmes being run by church and community groups. With many countries now having identified ensuring access to quality early learning as a priority, there is increasing government mandate, focus and resourcing of the sub-sector within national systems, including in emergencies.
Based on a global ECE conceptual framework and Pacific Guidelines for the Development of National Quality Frameworks for ECE, UNICEF has been supporting a number of Pacific countries who are currently embarking on ECE subsector diagnostic and planning processes to fully integrate ECE plans in their education sector planning cycle. In the development of ECE subsector plans there are five core functions within ECE, namely: 1) equitable planning and resource allocation, 2) curriculum implementation, 3) workforce development, 4) family and community engagement, and 5) quality assurance. These functions exist within an enabling environment that includes strong national policies, dedicated budgets, ministerial leadership, and public demand for quality early education programmes. Several PICs leading and innovating in ECE are further expanding budgets for ECE and/or developing quality assurance mechanisms. Some are revising ECE curricula reflecting contextualized expectations for learning and development and readiness for Grade 1, and/or working on professional development strategies for ECE teachers. In some, ECE has been integrated in disaster and COVID contingency plans, learning continuity strategies, and emergency response.
At regional level, the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) includes multiple regional ECE activities. These will be guided by the Pacific Early Learning Taskforce (ELT) of the Pacific Regional Council for Early Childhood Development (PRC4ECD), which reflects ECE focal points from all Pacific Island countries, plus select ECE experts from the region, and is expected to include a core team of up to 5 representatives who will serve as a sort of steering committee for regional ECE activities. These region-wide ECE activities as well as country-specific initiatives present opportunities for Pacific countries to work toward improving participation, strengthening quality, and ensuring readiness of children for successful transitions to Grade 1 from ECE. Ensuring that such opportunities are responded to through a Pacific lens is paramount so that the resulting goods and services are reflective of the Pacific context.
The ultimate aim of this consultancy is to develop and implement Pacific-relevant tools, experience and guidance on early childhood education to support national government efforts to elevate the priority and status of early learning/early childhood education by ensuring:
• Regional guidance, tools and processes are available to national entities responsible for ECE and regional partners such as the PacREF Implementing agencies and the Early Learning Taskforce to support governments’ efforts towards delivering equitable and quality ECE for all young children and families across the Pacific.
• Education Sector Planning processes utilise the relevant tools developed to systematically integrate ECE with well-defined implementation plans inclusive of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.
• Interventions being led by ministries of education within each of the action areas of the guidelines including curriculum implementation, teacher development, quality assurance, are well supported and coordinated with capacities built for sustainability.
How can you make a difference?
Building on the ongoing work on ECE systems strengthening, as described above, the consultant will provide technical support to UNICEF and ministries of education in Pacific to carry out the following activities:
• Development of ECE systems reflection and planning toolkit: Building on the experiences of implementing ECE system planning tools, in a select number of PICs and the existing global ECE conceptual framework and tools, develop and validate an ECE systems reflection and planning toolkit, which will comprise of a set of ECE systems analysis and planning tools and guidance, which support the inclusion and strengthening of ECE in the context of Education Sector Planning (ESP) processes or equivalent. In this regard, the following set of tools will be developed/adapted as part of the toolkit:
o Tools to support the understanding of key features of an effective ECE subsector including guidance for countries to set up national technical working groups for ECE
o Tools to support situational analysis of ECE in country context in alignment with education sector analysis
o Tools to support diagnostic assessment of the ECE subsector to identify key policy priorities, develop ECE strategies and activities
o Tools to support development of ECE implementation plans including monitoring evaluation and communication plans
o Specific targeted tools to support action planning under specific core functions (as described above)
Each tool will be supported with necessary guidance including examples of how these can be implemented in the Pacific island countries. With guidance from the Early learning Taskforce the consultant is expected to carry out the following broad steps to develop the ECE systems reflection and planning toolkit. These steps will be further elaborated by the consultant in consultation with the Early learning Taskforce and UNICEF:
o Conduct a review of the exiting tools available and used in Pacific as well as globally and identify key gaps. Identify tools which can be adapted to the Pacific context and the areas where the contextualization will be needed. Review experience applying existing tools in the Pacific and document strengths and challenges that would inform the development and adaptation of Pacific-focused tools.
o Facilitate consultations with the Early Learning Taskforce and partners to share the review and collaboratively develop an approach to develop the toolkit.
o Undertake development and contextualization of draft toolkit through a consultative process involving the Early Learning Taskforce and other partners.
o Facilitate validation workshops to validate and finalize the toolkit. At this stage the toolkit will also be used to provide technical support to countries which will serve as pilot process for gathering further feedback for revision and finalization.
o Develop and implement a capacity building programme to build the capacities of the Early Learning Taskforce on implementing the toolkit.
The toolkit should not be prescriptive in nature and should have the scope of further contextualization when implemented in specific countries in the Pacific. In addition, the tools within the toolkit should be interactive and action-oriented tools and should be designed to support ECE planning with a focus on equity. and education in emergencies. The consultant is expected to engage with other programme teams in UNICEF like Early Childhood Development, Innovation, Social Policy, WASH and Child Protection to ensure critical inputs from other sectors and relevant cross-cutting themes are reflected in the toolkit.
• Technical support to countries on ECE sub-sector analysis and planning: Using relevant tools from ECE systems reflection and planning toolkit (as described above), the consultant will provide continuous and systematic engagement with selected priority countries, providing technical support to ministries of education.
o The consultant will be expected to support ministries of education to conduct ECE subsector analysis and planning and development of national ECE action plans, using the system planning and reflection toolkit.
o The consultant is expected to support select countries to develop and validate curriculum implementation plans, monitoring and evaluation framework and monitoring tools.
It may be noted that technical support to countries will be overlap with the toolkit development process. As stated above, the toolkit will be used to provide technical support to countries and this will contribute to validation process for finalizing the toolkit.
• Additional technical support: This involves providing technical support and guidance on any other ECE/early learning themes/issues related to system strengthening, as and when needed.
The consultancy will be preferably undertaken in Fiji, with potential travel to countries in Pacific, if travel restrictions are lifted. Given the current travel restrictions in place, the consultant may need to work remotely. The consultant will be required to adapt to Fiji’s working hours as well as working hours of countries where the consultant will be providing remote technical support including workshops, meetings, etc., regardless of the location of the consultancy. The consultant will have routine contact through email and phone/Teams/Zoom with UNICEF focal points as advised. Some level of flexibility may be negotiated. While the consultant may draw upon the leadership and support from the team from the respective Ministry of Education in each country, he/she would be responsible for carrying out the tasks of the consultancy. While the UNICEF team will facilitate the initial connections and conversations with respective ministries, the consultant will be expected to proactively seek guidance from Ministries of Education, the Early Learning Taskforce, and other stakeholders as relevant, in close coordination and communication with UNICEF at all times.
Supervisor: The consultancy will be supervised by the Education Specialist (Early Learning Systems), in collaboration with the Education Officer/Specialist (where UNICEF Field Offices are present) for day-to-day supervision in any specific country. Approval of deliverable and payments would be done by Chief of Education, with agreement by the respective Ministry of Education for any country-specific deliverables.
Work Assignment Overview
- Development of ECE systems reflection and planning toolkit
- Continuous and systematic engagement with selected priority countries including leading diagnostic and planning workshop and providing technical support to ministries of education and field offices using the toolkit which will also be a pilot process for validating the toolkit.
- Additional technical support and guidance on any other ECE/early learning themes/issues, as well as on collaborative activities with other partners in the area of ECE, as and when needed
To qualify as an advocate for every child you will have…
- Advanced degree in relevant field, preferably early childhood development, early childhood education, international education, human development or social sciences..
- Minimum of 8 years of working experience in early childhood development and/or early childhood education, or Education.
- Relevant experience with supporting ECE planning and analysis, development of ECE action plans, monitoring and evaluation framework and tools and curriculum implementation preferably in multiple countries
- Experience in Pacific Island countries preferred. The consultant is expected to listen and understand from the Early Learning Taskforce and partners what already exists, what countries consider relevant and what will be most useful and ensure these learning leads the development of the methodology and framework for the review
- Experience with providing technical support or working with low and lower middle-income countries in the area of education; focus on early education is preferable.
- Excellent writing skills and ability to synthesize complex information and issues.
- Strong analytical and conceptual thinking.
- Ability to organize and plan complex work following the established timeframes.
- Ability to plan, coordinate, manage and facilitate high-level meetings.
- Previous experience working for UNICEF or another international organization an asset.
- Ability to work effectively with others.
For every Child, you demonstrate…
UNICEF’s values of Care, Respect, Integrity, Trust, and Accountability (CRITA) and core competencies in Communication, Working with People and Drive for Results.
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UNICEF is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages all candidates, irrespective of gender, nationality, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities, to apply to become a part of the organization.
UNICEF has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNICEF, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination. UNICEF also adheres to strict child safeguarding principles. All selected candidates will be expected to adhere to these standards and principles and will therefore undergo rigorous reference and background checks. Background checks will include the verification of academic credential(s) and employment history. Selected candidates may be required to provide additional information to conduct a background check.
Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted and advance to the next stage of the selection process.
Individuals engaged under a consultancy or individual contract will not be considered “staff members” under the Staff Regulations and Rules of the United Nations and UNICEF’s policies and procedures, and will not be entitled to benefits provided therein (such as leave entitlements and medical insurance coverage). Their conditions of service will be governed by their contract and the General Conditions of Contracts for the Services of Consultants and Individual Contractors. Consultants and individual contractors are responsible for determining their tax liabilities and for the payment of any taxes and/or duties, in accordance with local or other applicable laws.
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