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Jakarta Post

Still much to be done to improve Indonesia’s early childhood development

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    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, December 2, 2020   /   07:46 pm
Still much to be done to improve Indonesia’s early childhood development Eddy Henry, head of early childhood education and development at Tanoto Foundation (top left), Syifa Andina, early childhood development expert and UNICEF education consultant (top center), and Ahmad Avenzora, welfare statistics director of Statistics Indonesia (bottom left) during a Jakpost Up Close webiner titled Early Childhood Development in Indonesia: Are we on track? on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (JP/Yuliasri Perdani)

Families across the country, especially younger ones, are still working hard to provide adequate nutrition and attention for their children, which are necessary to ensure proper early childhood development.

Indonesia’s early childhood development, measured through UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development Index (ECDI), initially showed great promise. However, the COVID-19 pandemic may derail all progress made by the country.

As part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the ECDI is crucial in portraying the achievement of early childhood development at the population level.

Indonesia was among the first 91 countries to pursue data collection needed to obtain an ECDI score in 2018. The data collection process includes tabulation of four indicators, namely literacy-numeracy, physical, learning and social-emotional.

“In reality, there are numerous other countries that have yet to do any measurements. Yet, Indonesia has done it and this is something we need to appreciate from our government; showing the government’s commitment to achieve the sustainable development goals,” said Syifa Andina, an early childhood development expert and education consultant for UNICEF.

Syifa was speaking during a Jakpost Up Close webinar titled “Early Childhood Development in Indonesia: Are we on track?” on Wednesday which was held in cooperation with Tanoto Foundation.

The country achieved a score of 88.3 percent in 2018. Although a respectable figure, a point of concern for the country is the disparity among the four indicators, as well as across different regions in the country.

As pointed out by Statistics Indonesia (BPS) welfare statistics director Ahmad Avenzora, Indonesia scored a measly 64.6 percent and 69.9 percent on the literacy-numeracy and social-emotional indicators, respectively, compared to 97.8 percent and 95.2 percent on physical and learning indicators.

Avenzora also pointed to a disparity when Indonesia’s ECDI figure was contextualized per province.

“Within the literacy-numeracy index, South Kalimantan province scored the highest of all the country’s provinces, achieving a figure of 75.6 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, Papua province scored a concerning figure of only 43.8 percent,” he said in the webinar.

A similar chasm of disparity can also be found within the social-emotional index. As the highest scoring province, Riau Islands, scored 82.5 percent; compared to the lowest scoring province of Gorontalo, at only 56.3 percent, Avenzora added.

These conditions are further exacerbated by Indonesia’s prevalent problem of stunting; the halted development that children experience from inadequate nutrition and psychosocial stimulation. Although showing signs of improvement since 2013, Indonesia’s stunting figures are far from tolerable.

In light of this, Tanoto Foundation, an Indonesian independent philanthropic organization, ventures to aid the Indonesian government in providing high quality early childhood education and development through its "SIGAP" program.

The program also aims to improve the quality of early child caregiving practices as well as reduce stunting prevalence. As of December 2020, SIGAP’s early childhood education and development efforts span across the country, stretching from West Sumatra and Riau provinces, to Maluku and East Nusa Tenggara.

“The first challenge [in early childhood development] is in the field of nutrition. The prevalence of stunting in Indonesia is still very high, one in three Indonesian children still suffers from stunting. Although the number has continued to decline since 2013, the pandemic has caused concerns that the number will be on the rise,” Tanoto Foundation’s head of early childhood education and development Eddy Henry said.

Early childhood development provides the highest return on investment, compared to education at any other level, he added.

With this in mind, Tanoto Foundation’s SIGAP program is focusing on a number of intervention programs geared toward improving the contextual factors of early childhood education and development. These factors include birth weight, the quality and duration of preschool, as well as home learning environment.