Recently, Right to Education Initiative had the honour of interviewing Mercedes Mayol Lassalle, World President of the World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP). In post since 2020, Mercedes has an extensive career in the field of education, human rights, and early childhood, and is an activist who campaigns for the right to education as a human right.
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.
L’inclusion doit faire partie des engagements prioritaires dès la petite enfance. Selon les dernières estimations de l’Institut de statistique de l’UNESCO, le nombre d’enfants de moins de 6 ans non inscrits au pré-primaire a diminué au cours de la dernière décennie, passant de 52,1 millions, en 2009, à 47,2 millions, en 2018. Malgré cette avancée, cette situation reste très préoccupante, compte tenu de la relation entre l’accès aux services d’éducation inclusive et de protection de la petite enfance et le développement, le bien-être de l’enfant et la réussite scolaire.
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.