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$450M for early childhood care

By Janelle De Souza Wednesday, June 6 2012

It will cost Government an average of $450 million to bring about Universal Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in Trinidad and Tobago over the next year.

The figure includes a basic salary of $7,000 per month for 4,000 teachers, the costs of training, materials and infrastructure.

When asked if the move would increase the Ministry of Education’s Budget allocation significantly, Education Minister Tim Gopeesingh yesterday said, “Well there are some redundancies within the Ministry of Education, like paying $250 million for security in schools. We can reduce some of that cost significantly. We can reduce cost in some areas and shift it towards the real education aspect. This is my intention and desire, if I continue as Minister of Education.”

Gopeesingh made the statement at the first of three one-day national consultations on the role of Private Early Education Centres in bringing about Universal ECCE.

Entitled “Partnering to Achieve Universal ECCE,” consultations were held with preschools in the St George East, Port-of-Spain and North Eastern Education Districts, at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya.

A number of issues were discussed including the curriculum, infrastructure, material support, training of teachers and the different models for the Ministry of Education to establish a formal relationship with private schools.

The Ministry intends to host two more consultations in Central Trinidad — encompassing schools in Caroni, St Patrick, Victoria and the South Eastern Educational Districts — and one in Tobago.

According to Gopeesingh, 34,000 children need exposure to early childhood education. However, he said, at the moment there are 71 Servol schools and about 130 government and government assisted early childhood education centres which cater for 8,000 students.

In addition, the Ministry intends to construct 150 to 200 centres to cater for 14,000 students between ages three to five. Therefore, the Ministry hopes to form formal relationships with at least 200 private institutions in order to cover the other 12,000 students.

Gopeesingh noted that private institutions will have to meet Ministry requirements in order to be considered as a partner and the Ministry will have to meet the institution’s financial needs in terms of materials and utilities.

“If we are bringing on universal education, we don’t want any child to be disadvantaged, so we have to look at the concept of providing free education to all 34,000 children between ages three to five. We will have to look at having all children being paid for,” said Gopeesingh.

Gopeesingh stated that 900 persons were currently being trained at seven tertiary institutions and he hopes to train a total of 3,000 before 2015. They will receive a certificate or bachelors degree in early childhood education and fall within the categories of administrative teachers, teacher assistants and auxiliary teachers, according to their education levels. He noted that several private institutions already operate within Ministry parameters, and he anticipates partnering with them from as early as September 2012. He said there would be no pilot exercise as it “takes too long.” Instead, the Ministry sets up a planning team, legal team, training providers to come together to bring about the implementation.

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