The concept for ARNEC emerged from the Joint UNICEF-UNESCO Early Childhood Policy Review Project (2006-08) where participants from nine countries (Pakistan, Nepal, Mongolia, China, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Lao PDR and Singapore) met to discuss the possibilities of forming a regional early childhood professional network that would cross all disciplines and sectors. During the policy review, countries found that relevant policies were uncoordinated and fragmented and where there were gaps in policy, gaps in implementation followed. The primary goal of this network would be to share knowledge of effective policies and practices related to early childhood for the benefit of all countries in the region.
With a concept note drafted at the Policy Review Seminar in 2007, initially three core supporters signed on to support the establishment and development of ARNEC:
- UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office
- Plan International Regional Office for Asia, and
- UNESCO Asia Pacific Regional Bureau for Education
Subsequently, ARNEC welcomed the fourth, fifth, and sixth core donor partners to the network, the Open Society Foundation in June 2008, Save the Children Alliance in March 2009, and SEED Institute, Singapore in May 2009. In December 2013 the hosting arrangement with the SEED institute Singapore ended. ARNEC welcomed new core donor partner ChildFund in April 2014.
The ARNEC Steering Committee originally had 13 members and was composed of professionals based in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, China, Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, and represent government, academia, NGOs and UN agencies. Currently, the Steering Committee welcomed two more members making it a 15-member team of expertise in ECD.
At a one-day inaugural Steering Committee meeting on 5 February 2008, this dedicated group not only established all of the key administrative foundations for a new regional network but established ARNEC Task Forces and began to design the network’s first activities.
The ARNEC Steering Committee publicly launched the network two days after this meeting, on 7 February 2008, at the Third Asia Early Childhood Policy Review seminar. ARNEC later co-sponsored Early Childhood Policy: Getting it Right, Lessons Learned from Asia, an article detailing the key trends and challenges identified in the Early Childhood Policy Review process.