Report: Regional Early Childhood Development Landscape with Asia Philanthropy Circle

CEI has conducted a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind mapping of parenting and early childhood programs and interventions across the Asian region focusing on China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore. The study was made possible through a large funder collaborative led by the Asia Philanthropy Circle (APC) and the NUS Centre for Holistic Initiatives for Learning and Development (CHILD), with an Advisory Group of 11 funder organisations.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) lays the foundation for a child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual wellbeing and is a strong predictor of long-term development. Recent evidence shows that giving children the best start in life requires access to comprehensive programs and services between birth and six years, addressing their health and developmental needs, including early education.

“It is critical that we take a systematic approach to understanding the policies, services and programs available to young children and families, together with identifying gaps within the system,” notes Dr Gayatri Kembhavi-Tam, Associate Director at CEI, who led the study.

Without a clear understanding of the current situation across a country or region, stakeholders often work in fragmented or disjointed ways, doubling efforts or investing in programs that do not best meet the needs of the population.”

The challenge

Significant improvements have been made in recent years across East Asia and the Pacific region in the breadth of policies and the provision of programs supporting the needs of young children, mothers, and their families.

“The challenge is that our understanding of the full landscape is insufficient or ‘patchy’,” says Gayatri. “Even strong ECD systems can have service and program gaps, meaning that children and families may not have access to effective interventions that address their needs.”

The findings

Mapping the most significant parenting and early childhood programs and interventions currently being implemented in each country – along with quality evaluations of their effectiveness – the landscape study also identified major elements of early childhood policy.

We are already seeing funders, community leaders and policymakers coming together around key action points raised in the report

Over the course of a year, in addition to conducting a desktop review, the CEI team interviewed 52 stakeholders from the four countries, covering a range of expertise across government, academia and community services.

“The aim was not to uncover every single program in each country, but rather to bring together a detailed and representative picture of policies and initiatives that affect young children and families,” says CEI Advisor Esther Goh. “Understanding the strengths and needs within a country is vital before embarking on deeper conversations and collaborations. We’ll then be able to build plans for action from a strong foundation of evidence.”

Detailed findings and recommendations are noted for each country, as well as a number of common strategic opportunities identified to strengthen the ECD sector across the region:

  1. Support the generation and use of data that is accurate, linked and readily available. System actors and stakeholders should be supported to improve data collection and management systems, as well as to implement consistent data collection methods across donor-funded programs.
  2. Ensure effective coordination. Opportunities include encouraging cross-sectoral dialogue and supporting the coordination of system actors and stakeholders on the ground.
  3. Developing a sufficient and well-trained workforce recognised by the community. Regionally, this can be supported through cross-country exchanges on best practice in training and development. Locally, this could be encouraged through support for communities of practice among practitioners.
  4. Build the evidence-base locally and regionally through support for strong, independently conducted evaluations. There are also opportunities to conduct evidence synthesis research on specific topics of interest across the region.
  5. Foster a policy and regulatory environment centring the needs of children and families. Introduce ECD research to policymakers and engage these groups and other key stakeholders in dialogue on topics of interest.

“These opportunities are critical in strengthening the ECD sector and setting a strong foundation for growth. Within each country there is also space for conversations that would strengthen ECD practices and meet critical gaps,” Gayatri commented.

The impact and next steps

“The study findings will be of critical importance to policymakers and early childhood stakeholders,” Esther says. “In addition to providing a clearer and more in-depth understanding of the early childhood landscape, the report also adds to in-country research to inform policy and program development.”

“For philanthropic funders, the study provides data and goalposts to guide their work and inform their own analysis of where to make meaningful and effective sector investments.”

Says Gayatri: “We are already seeing funders, community leaders and policymakers coming together around key action points raised in the report, and discussing collaborative action that is inclusive and builds on the hard work done across the sector.”

Read the report:

Executive Summary

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Method

Chapter 3: Cross-Country Findings

Chapter 4: China

Chapter 5: Indonesia

Chapter 6: Philippines

Chapter 7: Singapore


Download all chapters here. 

CEI’s Esther Goh, Dr Gayatri Kembhavi-Tam, Baoyi Tan, Jieying Lean, Rachael Tham, Maryanna Abdo and Dr Vanessa Rose worked with APC and CHILD to deliver the landscape study, supported by an Advisory Group of funders, including APC members: Ayala Foundation, Bakti Barito Foundation, Djarum Foundation, Ishk Tolaram Foundation, Knowledge Channel Foundation, Li Foundation, Nomura, Quantedge Advancement Initiative, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Tanoto Foundation and the Zuellig Family Foundation.