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From 1 to 3 March 2017, VVOB Vietnam participated in the Asia-Pacific Regional Childhood Development Conference organised by ARNEC in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The transformative power of early childhood development and the importance of holistic interventions were discussed. This was the fourth time that VVOB participated in the annual conference, which always offers a great opportunity to exchange on recent researches and to raise concerns with other experts. (Picture source: ARNEC leaflet)

Common goal

In 2016, VVOB Vietnam engaged with 32 preschool teachers in a 6-month collaborative action research in the districts of Nam Giang (Quang Nam province), Thai Nguyen city and Vo Nhai (Thai Nguyen province), supporting them to improve their classroom practice by screening the levels of wellbeing and involvement of their children. VVOB Vietnam presented the research findings at the regional conference, and explained the results and lessons learnt. A light was also shed on VVOB’s way forward in the country: a focus on twenty-two disadvantaged and ethnically diverse district of three provinces in Central Vietnam. The Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training found VVOB's approach interesting, and VVOB aims at an upscaling of this approach to preschool teachers in the whole country.

VVOB Vietnam also met with the other country coordinators of the Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) to discuss how to achieve their common goal of realising optimal wellbeing and development for all children in the region. Together with Plan Vietnam, VVOB has been representing ARNEC in Vietnam for the past three years.

Holistic approach

A quality early childhood education is of major importance for children to develop fully in their early years. Inspired by the Centre for Experiential Education in Leuven (Belgium), VVOB’s approach is to look at children’s wellbeing and involvement as process indicators of their learning and development. When a child shows high levels of wellbeing and involvement, he or she can develop fully in all the developmental areas: physical, linguistic, cognitive, social and emotional, and esthetical. For their brains to develop, children need to be stimulated; rich stimulations at an early age have lifelong benefits. Over time, brain plasticity decreases and it becomes much harder and costlier to catch up on developmental delays.

Sound investment

The ARNEC conference stressed the growing importance of early childhood education. Quality early childhood programmes are a sound investment, and should not be considered an expenditure. The Government of Vietnam has understood that investments in children’s cognitive capital are necessary for sustained economic growth. The country is quickly becoming an example in the region, evidenced by a symbolic representation of three involved ministries at the conference: The Ministry of Education and Training, of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, and of Health.

VVOB Vietnam contributes to the development of research-based, efficient, and quality early childhood programmes and policies by measuring children’s development and addressing teachers’ competencies to work in a diverse classroom.

To further close the gap between what is known about early childhood development and what is done, Vietnam needs continued support for its mission to ensure that all children benefit from quality education in their early years. The quality of early childhood education services is fundamental to ensure that each child can unleash his or her full potential, resulting not only in the achievement of SDG 4 but also contributing to many other SDG targets. To quote Confucius: “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”