In her 2022 Report on the impact of the digitalisation of education on the right to education, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education clarified that any introduction of digital technologies in education must be framed around the right of every person to public, free, quality education and the commitments of states in this regard both under international human rights law and Sustainable Development Goal 4.
While South Africa has seen important advances in the provision of early childhood care and education (ECCE), about 3.2 million children still lack access to any programme. Problems of access and quality are most pronounced in the poorest communities. Even before Covid-19 forced many providers to close, these programmes were overcrowded, with poor infrastructure, and an under-paid and under-qualified workforce. ECCE is crucial for a child’s development, meaning that these inequalities are amplified in school and later life.
This background paper prepared for the Global Education Monitoring Report on non-States' actors in education: Who chooses? Who looses? provides both the rationale and the framework for re-centring a human rights’ perspective in education sector analysis.
One of the most serious consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the disruption of children’s education worldwide with the closure of schools for public health reasons. Projections from UNESCO Institute for Statistics show that nearly 100 million children across eight age cohorts would move below the minimum proficiency threshold in reading in 2020 due to the pandemic (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2021).
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.
In recent decades, governments have made considerable efforts to provide education for all. However, a large gap remains between international commitments, such as the Sustainable Development Goal 4, and the actual achievement of equitable quality education for all. As a result, certain actors often critique public education as ineffective and inefficient, and thus incapable of addressing this issue. They argue for privatisation as a solution, deeming private providers as more innovative and effective than public ones.
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.
In working towards creating inclusive education systems, many countries have failed to address discrimination and exclusion on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and