Much of the benefit of Early Childhood Education and Care for children’s future learning and development depends on the quality of services in this sector (OECD, 2017). Quality, however, needs to be continuously monitored and improved, which calls for effective internal and external quality assurance systems. Furthermore, enhancing the quality of education within Early Childhood Education and Care is pivotal to respond adequately to the Education Strategy Framework 2014-2024 (MEDE, 2014a) and to keep up with Malta’s commitment to reach the target of reducing Early School Leavers to 10% by 2020 (MEDE, 2014b).
As from 1st July 2016, the responsibility of externally quality assuring Childcare Centres (0-3 years) shifted from the Department of Social Welfare Standards (DSWS) to the Quality Assurance Department within the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education (DQSE) within the Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE). During 2017, a new External Review model has been developed to ensure adherence to the National Standards for Child Day Care Facilities (2006) and all currently operating 116 centres (approx.) were reviewed. The External Review report being issued refers to all the standards but it gives a clear direction to Centres to focus and manage their improvement process by indicating particular actions that need to be prioritised. This is all being done with the vision that improvement is a process which needs commitment as a result of ownership and time.
It is becoming increasingly accepted that early years’ provision is the foundation of learning throughout life. Research is showing that children who experience high-quality child care and early education meaningful learning programmes, perform better in their later years at school, develop better social skills and display fewer behavioural problems. Inclusive and equitable quality educational programmes in Early Childhood Education and Care will nurture a meaningful personal journey of holistic development and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, in congruence with the National vision of My Journey: Achieving through different paths (MEDE, 2016).
Dr Jacqueline Vanhear
Director – Quality Assurance Department
Ministry for Education and Employment