The Quality of Learning and Care at Community-Based Early Childhood Development Centers in Malawi
This exploratory study examined the strengths and weaknesses in the quality of early childhood care and learning at selected community-based childcare centers (CBCCs) in Malawi, and aimed to understand underlying challenges and opportunities that may be addressed to improve quality and ultimately children’s outcomes. Classroom environments and interactions were systematically observed at 12 CBCCs. Early childhood caregivers were surveyed, and in-depth interviews were conducted with key informants from the community. Areas of relative strength at the CBCCs included the physical environment, adultchild interactions, and inclusiveness. However, the CBCCs struggled substantially with the quality of learning and play opportunities; the availability of play and learning materials; and the quality of instruction for literacy, numeracy, and science. Underlying challenges that emerged from surveys and interviews included the CBCCs’ reliance on unskilled and volunteer caregivers, lack of materials, lack of food for children, and lack of interest from parents in the CBCCs. A fundamental strength was that in almost all the communities, key stakeholders were aware of the challenges, were motivated and committed to improving quality at their CBCCs, and had already taken actions to address specific problems. CBCCs in Malawi hold tremendous potential to provide early childhood services to the most vulnerable children; however, communities need to be supported to improve the quality of learning and care at these centers to maximize the benefits for children’s development and long-term outcomes.
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