Date: 20-10-2016

Early Childhood in Times of Rapid Change delivers meaningful growth for participants

Over 300 professionals and experts gathered in Vilnius, Lithuania between 11 and 13 October 2016 to discuss future pathways in the field of Early Childhood Development (ECD). Early Childhood in Times of Rapid Change addressed issues of concern to societies across the globe that are experiencing rapid changes which affect children, their families and the practitioners working alongside them. Living as we do in a more interconnected and interdependent world the stability of our economies and societies are impacted by factors beyond our borders; the effects of conflict, migration, climate change and epidemics in once remote countries can now have repercussions in local communities. In such challenging times, the conference invited participants to explore issues related to four thematic strands:

  • Meaningful Learning for Children
  • Meaningful Preparation of the Workforce
  • Meaningful Support for Families
  • Meaningful Use of Technology

In the Keynote presentation which opened the conference, Nicholas Burnett, Managing Director of at Results for Development Institute (R4D) said: “We have actually made enormous progress in the early childhood field. Advocacy has been paying off and we have made enormous gains in the world, but gains themselves are insufficient in light of the particular issues and problems which the whole world faces such as migration, inequality and low economic growth.” He continued, “Overall the pace of change is too slow and too general: we need to be more specific about the change we want to see: How do we get more adult carers into the system? How do we get more money into the system? How do we measure how children are doing? How do we determine which programs are successful? We need speed and specificity; not general invocations of good things.” In addressing the theme of Meaningful Use of Technology, Lizbeth Goodman, Director of SMARTlab at Dublin University College, stated: “We have to use technology for real-life engagement not as a replacement for it. We need to change the world where technology is in our way, in front of our face, or makes us obsessed with the screen; instead we should use it as a scaffold. In early years education, as in all education, technology should be a structure which allows us to learn to the best of our abilities.” She continued: “Technology should be used to support every individual differently in a personalized ‘one size fits one’ model.” The ISSA Conference 2016 also served as a platform for the first regional launch of the ECD series of the prestigious Lancet series. Some of the world’s leading experts on child development commented on how important the findings expressed in the series require a re-think of the policies and implementation of ECD programs in many countries. In a panel dedicated to the Lancet launch, one of the authors of this series, Bernadette Daelmans, World Health Organization (WHO), told conference participants: “The essence of what we say is this; if we want to promote early childhood development we need to ensure that children are supported by nurturing care throughout their life course, from the moment they are born. That care comprises of all elements: nutrition,health care, love and security, protection from dangers, opportunities to learn and discover this world.” Two Lithuanian early childhood experts Rimantas Zelvys and Austeja Landsbergiene engaged in a stimulating debate: ‘Reflections on some key challenges in the early childhood education and care system in Lithuania’, which amongst other topics questioned the increased emphasis on child testing, the quality of the partnership between teachers and parents, and the changes needed for a better preparation of teachers in Lithuania. Other highlights of the conference included a screening of the documentary The Beginning of Life, and the launch of resources for home visitors, developed in a partnership initiative carried out by ISSA and UNICEF. Resource Modules for Home Visitors are available here With more than 100 sessions, and guests from over 48 countries participating, ISSA Conference 2016 proved to be an inclusive and vibrant learning environment. For the first time, ISSA’s 2016 Conference embraced new technology by delivering the Conference content on a smart phone App. This not only minimized the daily burden for participants, as the weighty amount of literature was minimized, but it also allowed the participants to connect and share their opinions and meet up in a convenient and relaxed fashion. The conference was organized in partnership with the Center for Innovative Education, Lithuania and with generous support from the Open Society Foundations. The Keynote Presentations are available on the Conference website, while video highlights from the conference are available on ISSA’s YouTube Channel.