ICRI at the World Forum on Early Care and Education

Hundreds of early childhood care and education professionals, leaders, and government officials met at the World Forum on Early Care and Education, sponsored by the World Forum Foundation, in Macau, April 8 -11th, to engage in work and dialogue to impact the futures of young children and their families.

The World Forum brings together leaders and practitioners of early childhood education to collaborate, exchange ideas, and discuss new and innovative approaches to early childhood care and education. This year was no different.

The conference sought to tackle tough questions in areas such as; how to create safe and secure environments for children during conflicts at home, schools, and in the wider community? How do design and materials promote learning, play and development? And much more.

It was the 20th anniversary of this pioneering global event for children and families. As a founding member of the World Forum, ICRI led, sponsored, and hosted global collaboratives and workshops throughout the event on early childhood education and environment design. One of the major focuses for this years event was the neuroscience of children’s brain development and how educators can teach using approaches, models and techniques that utilize what is being discovered in this field. In other words, how this research translates to the classroom to better serve the learning and growth of young children.

“The world is starting to understand the importance of the neuroscience of children’s brain development, and are starting to ask what does this really mean?” says Ken Jaffe, ICRI Founder and Global Director. “At its core, it is about teaching in a way that is more interactive. We want every child around the world, no matter their race, gender or social class to benefit from this new approach”.

Some of the key techniques being used are open ended questions and developing curriculum that scaffolds a child’s learning in a way that meets and matches that child’s interest. This approach versus traditional lecturing, can benefit every child, in particular, their cognitive abilities, self worth, and confidence, both now and into their future. And they are techniques that are flexible enough to be adapted in any context, thereby having the potential to benefit any and every child.

Another method reviewed and discussed was the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach. The AI approach includes recognizing the successes and potentials in children, rather than just the weaknesses, and asking questions and being open to seeing new possibilities. This is a critical approach for children as they are more sensitive to their self-worth in the early stages of life. AI is a powerful tool in the field of education and can help children realize positive qualities in themselves and all they can achieve with them. The AI approach stresses the importance of focusing on opportunities, versus threats and the benefits this approach can have on both staff and child care programs.

The spirit of connection and collaboration were also major themes at the World Forum. As connections power innovation, intersection, and inspiration, all members were encouraged to connect and share their ideas. The World Forum uses an egalitarian approach where all members from top government officials, to teachers from remote areas of the world are encouraged to speak. For example, we heard from a teacher in India who used shapes and multiplication to teach speed math to young children and how all educators can use this technique in their practice. “We want everyone to feel equal and have a voice at the conference,” Ken Jaffe explains, “this wonderful teacher in India got the chance to speak at the conference, when he typically wouldn’t have.” With the focus on the neuroscience of children’s brain development,  finding new and creative ways for children to learn, what is often a difficult subject, is important.

World Forum leadership want to foster an environment of collaboration, openness, and sharing of information and ideas. During meetings, ICRI’s Founder and Global Director, Ken Jaffe encouraged members of each organization to share information and work together as a team. “We recognize that we have to remain humble, and stay on the cutting edge. It’s not about us, the focus should be and needs to be on the children and their families.”

ICRI and The World Forum Foundation work year round to plan the event and have already started for the next one in 2021. ICRI believes that in order to achieve the greatest outcomes in the provision of early childhood services it has to work at the grassroots level. ICRI hopes to encourage additional major international NGOs involvement in future World Forum Conferences. Ken Jaffe, and Sheldon Shaeffer, Director of UNESCO Asia Pacific, will be collaborating to bring back a form of the “collaborative group” for ICRI to bridge the gaps and barriers between global NGOs and local groups. Ken and Sheldon hope that all NGOs can come together, and work collaboratively to figure out how to make the lives of children and families around the world better.

The next WFF conference will be in 2021, Vancouver Canada. Join us!