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 services aim to provide for all children equally, but when the most vulnerable children are excluded or ignored, universal participation is unattainable. Many children are denied access because of gender, disability, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geographic location, language, refugee or displaced status, or due to a humanitarian crisis or natural disaster. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this exclusion. Today, more than ever, it is vital to intensify advocacy and concrete efforts to guarantee the right of every child to ECCE by mobilizing the multiple actors working to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) and its targets related to inclusive early childhood education.
This publication presents and discusses both qualitative and quantitative data for a renewed, action-oriented global commitment to universal and inclusive early childhood services. The recommendations have emerged from a literature review and consultations with experts, practitioners, and academics from multiple countries. It is intended for policy-makers, managers of ECCE programmes and services, practitioners, development partners, families, and research institutions. It recommends measures to be taken by policy-makers in consultation with relevant actors in order to make ECCE more inclusive. The measures are supported by research and illustrated by inspiring examples from across the globe. This publication supports all stakeholders who are committed to make inclusion from early childhood a reality.