By His Excellency Bill Tweddell
Australian Ambassador to the Philippines
Early Learning for Life Project Launch
Pearl Hall, SEAMEO Innotech, Quezon City
19 February 2013
Honourable Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development
Honourable Teresita Inciong, Chairperson, Early Childhood Care and Development Council Board
Mr. Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Country Representative
Distinguished representative of the Department of Education
Other distinguished guests
It is my honour to be with you today for the launch of the ‘Early Learning for Life’ project. Australia’s investment in early childhood education is an important pillar of flagship education program in the Philippines.
The title of this activity aptly describes how critical the first eight years of life are to a person’s future. Early childhood experiences lay a solid foundation for long-term physical, intellectual, social and emotional well-being. They also help pave the way for children to be ready, to participate more and to learn better in school.
In a long career, I have rarely seen such importance placed on education as I have seen in the Philippines. Families strive to send their children to school, with the hope that it will give them a good future. Even under the most difficult situations, and in the remote locations, mothers will walk their young children many kilometres to get them to school. However, to help them realise their dreams, their first walk needs to be paved with ‘early learning’.
Australia’s broader partnership with the Philippines and the Philippine government in basic education responds to the high priority, within the Philippine Government, to drive education reform. Australia is mindful that, unless education quality, access, and retention rates are improved, the performance of the education system will continue to constrain economic growth and hamper efforts to reduce poverty.
It is through a better-quality education that we can help ensure that every school graduate is able to contribute to, and take advantage of, the opportunities which development offers.
Australia’s targeted support for the early childhood education sector is based on the key role which Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) can play in improving the quality of learning outcomes. The objective is to ‘get more children ready for school and ready to learn’. That’s what the ‘Early Learning for Life’ project is all about. It places special emphasis on disadvantaged and marginalised children, and it is expected to help address the gaps in early learning.
Aside from educational benefits, community-based programs that integrate elements of health, nutrition, early learning, and care and protection of children, help to level the unequal playing field of life for the poorest children.
The potential for this program is to make a real difference is all the greater because it brings together the Department of Education’s reform agenda, with the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Community Driven Development Project KALAHI CIDSS in areas where the Philippines’ conditional cash transfer (CCT) program is being implemented.
Australia stands firmly behind the most impressive of Filipinos, Secretary Dinky Soliman, in her efforts to maximise the reach and benefit of the government’s programs for the poor, through the convergence of its reforms in education, in health, in social protection, and in poverty reduction.
Early childcare and development are essential if every child is to achieve his or her potential.
I stand as a father and a grandfather. Through Australia’s partnership with the Philippines, we are working to ensure that every child will start his or her journey with the preparation that early learning offers.
Thank you and magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.