Early childhood care and education: Getting off to a good start

The first Education for All (EFA) goal aims to expand and improve comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. As part of our countdown to the launch of our next report, we look back at the 2007 EFA Global Monitoring Report to see how far global progress on the goal has come.

The first Education for All goal reminds us that education needs to begin before children start in primary school. Indeed, the 2007 EFA Global Monitoring Report, Strong Foundations, showed that early childhood care and education is both a right in itself, ratified by 193 nations through the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is vital to give children a good start in life. It is also a catalyst towards all the other Education for All (EFA) Goals, and several Millennium Development Goals (MDG) too.

Children who participate in quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) programmes make better transitions to primary school, and are more likely to complete it (EFA goal 2). In addition, many ECCE programmes provide carers with access to parenting education and other forms of support, which can in turn improve adult learning and skills (EFA goals 3 and 4).  Such programmes are also important for promoting gender parity in education (EFA goal 5), as they relieve older sisters and other female kin of care responsibilities, a common barrier to girls’ enrolment in primary school. Furthermore, such programmes are an opportunity to reduce gender stereotypes at an age when children are developing their understandings of identity. Finally, good-quality ECCE is linked with higher achievement at later education levels, and can in that way contribute to the quality of education systems as a whole (Goal 6).

With regard to the Millennium Development Goals, good quality holistic early childhood programmes which monitor children’s welfare at the same time as providing an education, can sport and reduce poverty, hunger (MDG 1) and child mortality (MDG 4), and can help combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (MDG 6). Given the far-reaching development effects of these programmes, combined with the chronic need to find breakthrough methods to stop the millions of child deaths each year from malnutrition and disease, early childhood care and education should be given much more attention and recognition by the international community.

As it stands, large numbers of young children risk never having the hope of going to pre-school. Almost 20 million are born underweight. And, just as being malnourished can deny their right to play and the right to participate fully in society, by robbing them of their opportunities to develop health bodies and minds, malnutrition can remove them to the right to an education too.

Our recent policy paper showed the extent of the problem: around 28% of all children under five in the developing world are short for their age, an indicator of poor health status, which influences their ability to learn. In addition, many young children are denied the opportunity to attend pre-school which places them at a disadvantage for learning. As the 2010 PISA survey showed, the net effect of having attended pre-primary education is equivalent to a year of schooling or more in countries such as Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy and Singapore.

While children from poor families stand to gain the most from early care and education, they are least likely to enrol. Access to these programmes is inequitable in many countries. In Ghana, for example, children from wealthy homes are almost four times as likely as poor children to attend an early learning programme.

When world leaders met to agree on the Education for All Goals in Dakar in 2000, they promised the world’s children that access to education would be equal by 2015. Three years before the deadline, it seems unlikely that their promise will be kept. Whether you are a boy or a girl, whether your parents are rich or poor, or whether you live in a city or the country still too often determines how well you will do in school. Increasing access to early childhood care and education for those who need it the most – the poor and marginalized – is a vital step in changing this pattern, and should be seen as an urgent priority for governments and donors.

About Hans Botnen Eide

Consultant at the Education for All Global Monitoring Report.
This entry was posted in Early childhood care and education, HIV/AIDS, Human rights, Millennium Development Goals, Nutrition, Pre-primary education, Primary school and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Early childhood care and education: Getting off to a good start

  1. balaumari says:

    De mon point de vue et du point de vue sur une éducation non sexiste, les stéréotypes et préjugés sexistes qui sont souvent dans notre culture et nous pouvons facilement observer dans certains médias, sont basées sur trois critères principaux: l’analyse du fait d’un point de vue masculin, l’existence de caractéristiques personnelles (caractère, le tempérament ..) et comportementales (suffisant ou insuffisant) comme base de l’argument de la différenciation sexuelle.

    Grâce à l’époque où les femmes ont eu ce point et utiliser des stratégies pour tenter de survivre dans un monde conçu par et pour les hommes et ont dû s’adapter et à s’intégrer dans un monde où les rôles et la personnalité a été développé à partir d’un point de vue masculin. Est inquiétant de constater que certaines attitudes sont principalement attribuables à un certain genre. Par exemple, la tendresse, la solidarité et la frivolité toujours liée à la personnalité féminine.

    Si l’avenir socio-économique nous ne tombe en panne, l’égalité des sexes sera une réalité dans de nombreux pays à travers le monde, je me réfère non seulement à l’égalité des tâches domestiques et des responsabilités.
    Je crois fermement que le véhicule de la conscience est toujours scolarité, mais devrait être prudent dans la diffusion de publicités stéréotypées avec des messages comme: les soins à domicile et la beauté que les principales préoccupations des femmes. D’autre part, certaines stratégies de segmentation du marché (homme vs femme) afin d’augmenter les ventes, sans le vouloir, peut aider keeover stéréotypes de genre temps certains. Mais pourquoi pense qu’il ya un colorant des cheveux gris pour les femmes et une autre pour les hommes.

    Je ne pense pas que beaucoup d’hommes venu à l’esprit d’écrire un livre, avec de bonnes perspectives commerciales, sur la situation particulière du mâle humain. Dans la lignée de nombreuses publications sur le monde des femmes. Souvent, les termes masculins et féminins sont utilisés de manière symétrique uniquement pour la forme pure et documents juridiques …

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  2. Anne-Gret Friedrich-Cuntz says:

    Thank you so much for bringing this subject forward. I agree that this should be an urgent priority for governments and donors to work on those goals and provide those less fortunate with the opportunity from early childhood on to participate in preschool activities. Thank you for your engagement, as this is a global opportunity to do good to those in need.

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  3. I agree with the author that the early years are the most critical stages of early learning and development. Foundational skills that support social and emotional development as well as language and literacy development can be garnered by attending quality preschool programs. If we really want to be social change agents in the war on poverty, it just makes so much sense to start every child off right with an early childhood education.

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