The Early Childhood Care and Development Program is a center-based initiative of the Tarayana Foundation that concentrates on improving school readiness of young, undernourished children. The centers operate in remote communities of Bhutan, where young children are otherwise left unattended while parents complete daily work. The program drives positive change in communities by preparing children from 3 to 5 years of age for primary school and enabling parents to pursue income-generating activities.
Through the centers, children are provided with educational and nutritional support. Children develop critical thinking skills through educational games and the creation of stories. Facilitators guide children through learning exercises and songs, narrate stories, and facilitate vocabulary building exercises. The centers also equip parents with techniques for promoting child development through parent discussion groups. Parent education follows the curriculum guide developed by Bhutan’s Ministry of Education, UNICEF Bhutan and Save the Children Bhutan. The centers supplement the nutritional needs of children with drinks and snacks throughout the day.
As of 2015, there were 25 Early Childhood Care and Development Centers in operation. Where possible, the centers are located in existing community buildings. The Tarayana Foundation constructs new shelters as needed and the Bhutanese Ministry of Education, Bhutanese District Administration and local community assist with the establishment of new centers. The centers are free for participating families. Donors provide funds for the initial costs of center establishment and recurring costs, such as facilitator salaries and nutritional supplementation, are paid by the Tarayana Foundation. Facilitators of the program are trained by the Tarayana Foundation in collaboration with the Institute of Management Studies with support from Bhutan’s Ministry of Labour and Human Resources. Where possible, the facilitators serve in their own communities.
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CEI approaches in action
The Tarayana Foundation holds community consultation meetings before implementing new centers. These meetings help the foundation understand the community’s background and provide an opportunity for community members to share their visions of how the center can benefit their families. After the community consultation meeting, field officers report to Tarayana’s head office with information on the community’s background and the children who live there. Once the center is established, it is open to all children ages 3 to 5 at no cost.
The program began as a pilot project with the establishment of 6 early childhood care and development centers in 2 Bhutanese districts. The program has since expanded to 25 centers in rural village communities of 6 districts.
The Tarayana Foundation plans to continue expansion into rural Bhutanese communities. By the end of 2016, the foundation will establish six new centers.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The Tarayana foundation collects quarterly data on the number of children enrolled and absenteeism at each center. Data are also collected on the number of children ages 0 to 5 in the communities being served for future planning purposes. The Foundation is in the process of developing a monitoring and evaluation strategy.