Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Hang Chuon Naron called on governments in the region to give priority attention to investment in early childhood care and development (ECCD) to achieve their sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Chuon Naron made this call in his opening remarks at the 7th International Conference on Poverty Reduction and Child Development under the theme “Investing in Children for Sustainable Prosperity”, which was hosted by China but held online on July 24.
The minister said that investing in early childhood development was one of the most effective things a country could do to eliminate poverty, boost prosperity and create human capital needed for economies to diversify and grow.
He said that in Cambodia infant mortality rate declined by 50 per cent between 2010 and 2014 due to improved care and economic development, especially investment in early childhood education (ECE) and parental education.
“We have also developed ECD policies and legal frameworks, and adopted a holistic and inclusive approach to ECD,” he said.
According to the minister, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on young children and UNESCO estimates that about 1.5 billion learners are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The significant impacts of Covid-19 threaten the progress of ECD targets for the SDGs of the region.
“For that reason, we must work together to share experiences in order to continue education for our children,” he said.
He called on local governments to place a priority on providing holistic and inclusive ECD in the region adopting the nurturing care framework for ECD in support of achieving ECD-related targets in the SDGs.
He called for a focus on communities where children are most at risk of being left behind and for a specific focus on families and children facing the greatest barriers to quality ECD.
He also suggested putting in place transformational policies and actions to address Covid-19 reinforced disparities, provide extra help to children with disabilities and to ensure that children in remote locations without access to online learning are not disadvantaged even more.
“We must balance between protection and education. Blended learning will continue and innovative approaches to ECD are needed,” he said.
The UN on July 20 stated that education is very important for children’s personal development and lifelong potential. The UN said that education is the key to escaping poverty, reducing inequality and promoting sustainable development and that the global pandemic of Covid-19 has disrupted education and enrolment worldwide.
In Cambodia, schools have been closed for more than 200 days since March 2020, disrupting the learning of an estimated 3.2 million students.