Perhaps when researchers put it into practice for the first time on January 16, 1992, they did not think that the “Educate Your Child” program would extend to reach all corners of the country, mainly because the initial studies were carried out in difficult to access and sparsely populated rural areas.
Based on three essential elements: the family, the community, and its intersectoral nature; this educational proposal has demonstrated that when quality care is provided in early childhood, children achieve greater development in the initial primary school grades.
At present, 495,184 children benefit from the Educate Your Child program, with the purpose of supporting families so that they can begin to develop in the home environment.
On the occasion of the anniversary of the initiative, María de los Ángeles Gallo Sánchez, director of Preschool Education at the Ministry of Education (Mined), stated that in rural areas, a total of 2,945 children between 5 and 6 years of age currently receive their preschool education through the program.
The Mined official stressed the importance of the intersectoral character of this proposal: “The program is coordinated by the Ministry of Education, but the ministries of Public Health, Culture, and Justice are represented… At the different levels there are representatives of agencies and organizations.
“It is not only the Ministry of Education that is attending to early childhood in Cuba. Different agencies and organizations also have responsibilities.”
BEYOND OUR BORDERS
Today the island enjoys international prestige regarding the work carried out with children up to 6 years of age, largely due to the results of the Educate Your Child program, endorsed by studies of international organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Speaking during a press conference, Miriam Díaz, director of the Latin American Reference Center for Preschool Education, explained that all the achievements noted in Cuba, and the claims as regards what can be done, are demonstrated through science.
Recognition of its successes among educators from other parts of the world has enabled the Educate Your Child program to spread beyond Cuba’s borders.
“We can cite Brazil,” Dr. Díaz noted, “a country that has applied the program for more than 10 years in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Due to its importance there, the Educate Your Child program, under the name Primeira Infância Melhor, is already legally recognized.”
Other countries in the region that use the method are Colombia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Mexico.
MOM AND ALSO DAD
As part of the perfecting of the National Education System, the strategies of the Educate Your Child program are being reviewed to achieve higher quality in its implementation. In this regard, specialists are preparing new pamphlets for families, and intensive work is underway to ensure that the different methods of preschool education (preschool day care centers, preschools, and the Educate Your Child program) complement each other.
Likewise, the responsibilities and functions of the agencies and organizations that collaborate with the program are being refined. According to the statements by María de los Ángeles Gallo Sánchez, the goals going forward are even more ambitious.
“If I am going to talk about challenges, we must mention the preparation and training of promoters and facilitators, and continue to gain the presence of the paternal figure in different educational activities. We also want to see male participation in children’s education. This has been increasing, but we must continue working.”
DETAILS OF THE CONGRESS
On February 2-3, the Interdisciplinary and Intersectoral Symposium for Early Childhood Education will be held in Havana, as part of the accompanying activities of the international congress Pedagogía 2017.
At press time, the presence of a large group of delegates from more than 20 countries was confirmed, as well as a large Cuban representation with high quality research projects to be presented.
The symposium agenda includes a panel, free discussion sessions and a round table discussion with representatives from the ministries of Public Health and Justice; the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation; as well as guests from Mexico and Venezuela.
Mercedes Mayol, regional vice president of the World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP), will offer a keynote address to conclude the event.
“The fact that she is visiting us as regional vice president,” Dr. Miriam Diaz noted, “is an honor for our symposium.”
Cuba’s OMEP committee is led by researcher Ana María Siberio, and in the working sessions planned for Pedagogía 2017, the committee will analyze, together with foreign delegates, how interdisciplinary and intersectoral aspects are manifested in education.