The efficient design and delivery of early childhood policies and services are critical to ensuring long-term learning opportunities and improved learning, behaviour, employment, and health outcomes amongst individuals. Research in neuroscience, developmental psychology and cognitive science has revealed that quality early childhood education, supportive communities and a positive family environment serve as important building blocks to promote healthy development amongst infants and toddlers.
Early childhood, defined as the period from birth to eight years old, is a crucial time for the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth of children. Access to quality early childhood care and education (ECCE), therefore, can be vital in laying the foundations for children’s long-term development, well-being, learning, and health. Despite this, universal and equitable access to free, quality, and compulsory pre-primary education is one of the major education challenges. One out of two children does not receive pre-primary education.
Inclusion should be a principal commitment from early childhood. According to the latest estimates from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the number of children not enrolled in pre-school in the year before primary school has decreased over the past decade, from 52.1 million in 2009 to 47.2 million in 2018. Despite this progress, the large number of children still excluded from pre-school is a major concern, given the strong evidence linking access to inclusive early childhood care and education (ECCE) with school success, overall development, and well-being.
Early childhood education has the potential to expand opportunities for disadvantaged children, provided that programmes use inclusion as a guiding principle. While the international community has committed to inclusive education, countries vary in their efforts to extend this goal to early childhood. Universal access is the basis of inclusion, and countries must address barriers related to socio-economic status, ethnicity, gender, language, disability and remoteness.
One out of two children do not receive pre-school education. This situation has worsened due to the mass closure of preschools education due to the COVID 19 pandemic, affecting more than 155 million pre-school age children. But, in many countries the education response strategy to COVID 19 relatively neglected early childhood care and education (ECCE).
This book is part of UNESCO’s Education on the Move series created to provide policy-makers, educators and other stakeholders with state-of- the-art analyses of topical issues. The book is divided into three main chapters each including vigorous research papers that critically analyse ECCE-related themes. The first part discusses ‘understanding ECCE as a right and development imperative’.
El primer informe mundial de UNICEF sobre la educación preescolar presenta un análisis exhaustivo de la situación de la educación en la primera infancia en todo el mundo. También proporciona un conjunto de recomendaciones prácticas para que los gobiernos y los asociados consigan que la educación preescolar de calidad sea universal y sistemática.
UNICEF’s first global report on pre-primary education presents a comprehensive analysis of the status of early childhood education worldwide. It also outlines a set of practical recommendations for governments and partners to make quality pre-primary education universal and routine. Noting that at least 175 million children – 50 per cent of the world’s pre-primary-age population – are not enrolled in pre-primary programmes, the report urges governments to commit at least 10 per cent of their national education budgets to scale them up.