The Asia-Pacific Regional Early Childhood Development Conference

The Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) is a network established to build strong partnerships across sectors and different disciplines, organisations, agencies and institutions in the Asia-Pacific region to advance the agenda on and investment in Early Childhood.

It covers 47 countries including East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Pacific sub-regions, as well as Central Asia to a smaller extent. ARNEC is supported by the following organisations: UNICEF, UNESCO Asia Pacific Regional Office for Education, Plan International, and Open Society Foundation.

The Asia-Pacific Regional Early Childhood Development (ECD) Conference organised by ARNEC in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Cambodia was held in Siem Reap, Cambodia during the first week of March 2017. The theme of the Conference was ‘The Transformative Power of Early Childhood Development: The Importance of Holistic Interventions’ with three sub-themes covering (i) Policies and Programmes; (ii) Equitable Access and Participation; and (iii) Quality Monitoring.

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The objectives of the Conference were to:

1. Provide opportunities for policymakers and practitioners to contextualise ECD and incorporate it in their own countries as part of the global agenda, 2. Strengthen advocacy for holistic and inclusive ECD, 3. Share knowledge, tools and noteworthy practices on ECD policies and programmes; and 4. Strengthen partnerships for ECD among a large range of existing and potential stakeholders.

Akshara’s Poster on “ECCE – Making Quality in Public Sector Preschools a Reality: Akshara Foundation’s Experience’’ was selected for presentation.

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The conference was inaugurated by Mr. Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo HUN SEN, Prime Minister of Cambodia, who was the Honourable Chair, and closing remarks were presented by Dr. HANG CHUON NARON, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, Cambodia. Around 650 members from countries ARNEC works with participated in the Conference. The Conference spread across three days. Six key speakers spoke, ten parallel sessions unfolded, and twenty papers were presented. Besides, there were video presentations during the lunch break.

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Pre-conference study visits were organised to two community learning centres and an interaction with community members was facilitated. I visited Leangdai Community Preschool and Taprok Community Preschool. The two centres had around 25-30 children in the age group of 4-5. The community manages the centres and financially supports them by raising funds. The preschool instructors are from the same village. The centres are linked to the local communities. They function out of a space that belongs to the people. The preschools operate from 7 a.m. to 9a.m. five days a week. As explained by an instructor, the curriculum addresses the children’s cultural, emotional and social development, cognitive thinking and language skills, through storytelling, play, art, dance and lessons in basic hygiene.

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The experience was rich and very useful. I got to share Akshara’s experience and initiatives with many private practitioners, policymakers, researchers and NGO members. I discussed with them the educational issues we face in India and our challenges in addressing them. I spoke about Akshara’s efforts to raise the standards of government pre-schools and schools and our thrust towards creating an eco-system for better teaching and learning outcomes. We design programmes for underprivileged children and try to create a future of opportunities and goals for them. Equipping the community to take on their share of the responsibility is a considerable aspect of our work as well. Our mission statement is: Every Child in School and Learning Well.

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Shared our efforts of harnessing technology to bring about change, and belief in Creative Commons ( and share all that we do in the public space) , our culture of data-driven organisation, research and self-evaluations that matter to us and so on. It was a proud moment for me when I saw the overwhelming reactions of people. They had positive things to say about Akshara’s scale, engagement with government, use of technology, and our belief in an open society.

Click here to see our entire experience there in detail.

– Vaijayanti K Akshara Foundation

Creative Commons. The length and breadth of it.

‘Every single use of a creative piece of work from the culture around us requires permission. Without permission, you are a tresspasser.’ Larry Lessig’s words from his speech on Laws That Choke Creativity back in 2007 made such an impact on us, that we were left reviewing our level of ‘common’ sense too.

Common sense towards? Sharing a piece of ‘original creative work’ with anyone who may need it, in part or whole, to use as intended, without being bound by copyright laws.

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Image Source: www.ted.com 

The increasing revolt on the laws prohibiting the use of an existing piece of work led to the rise of one of the most revolutionary organisations – Creative Commons.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Creative Commons (CC) is an American non-profit organisation founded by Larry Lessig himself and is devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.

It does away away with the ‘all rights reserved’ copyright act to make way for the ‘some rights reserved’ policy. In other words, artists or creators are free to use an existing piece of work, as long as they follow the request/ask by the original creator using it. The conditions vary from being able to use it freely for non-commercial purposes, to a simple Attribution request.

This school of thought has since then, found so much popularity among the creators and users that according to Wikipedia, as of January 2016 there were an estimated 1.1 billion works licensed under the various Creative Commons licenses.

Akshara Foundation is one such creator that whole-heartedly subscribes to this train of thought. It’s a fact that all Akshara Foundation works are licensed to a Creative Commons Attribution. Which simply means, we love sharing our work with anyone and everyone.

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As our chairman Mr. Ashok Kamath puts it, “If a successful method/model exists, why not just use that and scale it up? What’s the need to start from scratch and go through the list of trials and errors all over again?”

Be it our learning material, training manuals or even research, all our resources for each and every programme we have designed so far (Pre-Primary, Math, English and Library) is all free for anyone to use. All one has to do is log on to the Akshara Foundation website and download. If we may say so, it’s simpler done than said. Seriously.

Feel free to then chew on our resources, modify them and use them to best suit your needs. Wait a minute, all this, for free? All we ask for in return, is that Akshara Foundation be duly acknowledged wherever our intellectual property has been used, in any form. Curious to know more on how we have adopted the laws of Creative Commons? Just click here.

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Not every NGO has the luxury of resources that they can use to do all the ground work from scratch. Thus it helps to have access to the learnings/works from a like-minded organisation at such a time.

Mr. Venkatesh Malur, the then Director and Head of Education at Sampark Foundation’s mail, saying, “Sampark is very comfortable working with Akshara and partnering to take initiatives forward like the English program. We will acknowledge the efforts of Akshara and also would like you to support us in building capacities of the state teams where this will be helpful.” is proof of this concept actually helping others out, specially in fields like ours.

Others who have followed suit in working towards the betterment of our education system are CherYshAgastya International Foundation (for The Classroom Library) and IIMPACT, to name a few.

One of our most recent visitors could not help but exclaim, “So you’re actually telling me I am free to use your programme, be it English or Math or Library, as is? This is so convenient, I wonder why everyone can’t share their data?” Guess it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea.

Since August 2016, we have had over 378 downloads from NGOs, Government agencies, Private schools and preschools, Companies and individuals who are using it in their own area of work. We are excited to see our work reaching out to many more beneficiaries and hoping that this will multiply in the months to come.

So the next time you hear of an organisation looking to make some headway in their programmes, do tell them about Akshara Foundation’s Creative Commons Attribution policy. We’re an overly-excited-to-help bunch that’s all about working towards impacting over 2 million children by 2020, and always looking for partners, on the way.