Members of the All Ceylon Union of Teachers are preparing to combat the increasing privatisation and de-professionalisation in Sri Lanka’s Early Childhood Education sector, and look at ways of improving access and teachers’ working conditions.
All Ceylon Union of Teachers (ACUT) President Angela Vijeshinghe is stressing that the Sri Lankan government’s financial share in providing Early Childhood Education (ECE) is very limited, as much as 80 percent of ECE is provided by the private sector. There is an “utter neglect of the rights of the ECE teachers” working for poor salaries and benefits, she condemned. Vijeshinghe also says that Sri Lankan ECE professionals lack proper professional training and qualifications.
Thirty-four leaders and members of ACUT took part in a three day seminar on ECE organised by the Education International (EI) Asia-Pacific (EIAP) office from 25-27 September in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Shashi Bala, the EIAP Chief Regional Coordinator, stressed the need for universal, publicly funded quality early childhood education (ECE). Bala deplored that the Education for All (EFA) goal on ECE has so far been neglected. As a result, she said, “ECE is largely in private hands, which raises doubts over access, quality and equity in the provision of ECE”.
Teachers and support personnel in ECE are largely untrained, and poorly paid and supported, she noted, calling upon teacher unions to take up the issue of quality ECE and ECE personnel, and to demand sufficient funding, proper training and support for ECE personnel.
Looking forward, the ACUT committed to exert pressure on the government for the expansion of ECE services to improve access to poor and marginalised children, increased public funding for ECE, the protection of the rights of ECE teachers, and for well-trained and qualified ECE teachers.
The union plans to organise ECE teachers in Sri Lanka and launch a campaign to recruit more members. This is going to be carried out by preparing an action plan that incorporates ideas developed over the three-day seminar.