ARNEC and ISSA host inaugural Cross-Regional Learning Workshop on mental health and wellbeing

More than 80 attendees marked the inaugural Cross-Regional Learning Workshop of the Early Childhood Workforce Initiative (ECWI) on February 21, 2024. Jointly hosted by the Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) and the International Step by Step Association (ISSA), the event sought to catalyze mutual learning among Early Childhood Regional Networks in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Arab region, and Europe and Central Asia.   

The two-hour workshop highlighted capacity-building programs rolled out in Asia-Pacific and Europe and Central Asia, showcasing their implementation in various countries. It featured two key training programs: the Regional Master Level Training using the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Handbook and modules developed by UNESCO Bangkok and ARNEC, and the “Foundational Training on Psychological First Aid (PFA) and trauma-informed practices with young children and their caregivers” developed by ISSA with Amna and War Child Holland. Country implementers from the Philippines, Romania, and Ukraine shared their experiences and the impact of the roll out on the professional development of the early childhood workforce (ECW), highlighting the empowering and transformative effects of these programs. 

There is so much work going on around the world to improve the lives and development of our children, but there is such a big need to also take care of the people who care for our children.”  

– Jerry Yeoh, ECCE Council Member, Malaysia 
Participant of ARNEC’s regional training on SEL 

Several key insights emerged from the workshop discussions, pointing toward future collaboration across regions:  

Enhancing cross-regional collaboration: Participants expressed a strong desire to increase dialogue and partnership across regions. Emphasizing shared challenges and solutions, the discussions highlighted specific examples of how cross-regional learning could lead to innovative approaches, suggesting a need for regular exchange programs and joint initiatives. 

Prioritizing mental health and SEL: The critical need to address mental health and SEL was a major focus. Drawing on global challenges, speakers advocated for integrating mental health and SEL into curriculum and teacher training programs, showcasing case studies where these integrations are taking place. 

Empowering the workforce through training: The transformative impact of targeted training for the ECW was underscored. The presentations provided evidence of how training programs, particularly those focusing on psychological resilience and SEL competencies, have empowered educators and caregivers, with calls for scaling these training models to reach broader audiences. 

This event provided participants from the ECD Regional Networks with a forum to share knowledge that can enhance existing programs. By drawing on the diverse experiences of ECW professionals across the globe who have implemented and adapted these programs, the ECWI laid the foundation for future dialogue and cross-regional collaborations on these topics. 

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This workshop was supported by the Early Childhood Regional Networks Fund.