Experts on April 27 agreed that it is necessary to raise public awareness of early childhood education and strengthen partnerships among parties to support young children's comprehensive development.

The conference on early childhood care and education was part of the Global Action Week on Education for All in Vietnam and was jointly held by the Ministry of Education and Training and local and international organisations in the northern province of Vinh Phuc.

Nguyen Vinh Hien, deputy minister of Education and Training said early childhood from birth to eight years of age is the most critical period in human development so early childhood care and education for millions of children in the country should be a priority.

He said children's rights should be ensured from their early years.

Sun Lei, Education Programme Co-ordinator of UNESCO in Vietnam said: "Early childhood care and education is the foundation for all foundations."

However, according to experts at the conference, the importance of early childhood care and education is not impressed upon enough by parents, teachers and relevant agencies.

Sun Lei said: "All of us wish to bring the best to our children, but such a wish does not always mean that every one of us knows the best way to nourish, care for and educate them."

Ta Thuy Hanh, an officer from Save the Children said parents were too busy earning a living to have time for communicating and interactive activities with their children. Many wrongly assumed that eating and sleeping were enough for their children.

Many parents in big cities also entrusted the care and education of their children to domestic workers or nannies who had low intellectual standards and no parental relations with children, she added.

Dao Thi Vi Phuong, an officer of the Vietnam Women's Union added that even when spending time with their children, many lack the knowledge and skills to educate and communicate with them.

Experts agreed that there should be community groups and mechanisms to provide training for parents about child development, positive parenting, health and hygiene.

Experts agreed that to ensure a strong foundation for children, the link between parents and pre-school should be closer.

Deputy Minister Hien said the ministry, in co-operation with local and international organisations, will invest in the quality of early childhood education and implement official policies and programmes to increase communication between parents, pre-schools and the community.-VNA