'Pretend work’ in early childhood centres in Indonesia expands girls’ career aspirations, by Ella Yulaelawati, Directorate of Early Childhood Education Development, Indonesia

02 October 2017

Where can you find teachers, doctors, pilots, police officers all happily working side-by-side? In early childhood care and education (ECCE) centers in Indonesia.

Children’s pretend play in early childhood care and education (ECCE) centres is recognized to have cognitive and social benefits. It can also reduce gender bias and stereotyping and expand career aspirations for girls.

At the Directorate of Early Childhood Development in Jakarta, we promote “pretend work” activities at an early age. This helps girls to think about their interests and abilities, and to open up occupational aspirations to include those traditionally associated with men (like computer programming and aerospace engineering).

Pretend work also develops girls’ communication, social and thinking skills. For example, through pretend work activities, children produce and market products, and consider how to spend, save and share. We help them to work collaboratively, consider others’ perspectives, negotiate, and to get organized. By thinking about and working with monetary and non-monetary resources, we help children consider not only about future professions, but also how they assist the people and the community around them.

Vocational skills and career options are obviously not based on pre-school alone. However, we believe that pretend work experience provides girls with the acquisition of important traits that they can use in their adult lives and prepares them for different career possibilities.

There are nearly 200,000 ECCE centres, about 600,000 ECCE teachers and educators, and around 12.6 million children have access to community-based ECCE centres in Indonesia. There are still children left underserved and who do not have access to ECCE. Most of these children reside in rural areas. Indonesia is aiming to establish at least one ECCE Centre in each village, to develop and empower rural communities in isolated and hard-to-reach areas.

By expanding ECCE that offers children opportunities for early imaginative play, we are opening up new worlds for children, advancing not only their own development but also gender equality.

The Directorate of Early Childhood Education Development was awarded the 2016 UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education for its project “Improving Access and Quality of Girls’ Education through Community Based Early Childhood Education and Early Gender Mainstreaming”.

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