Global entities unite to issue a call for action, seeking ECEC access for all children
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Global entities unite to issue a call for action, seeking ECEC access for all children

by Freya Lucas

September 04, 2020

A number of organisations including UNICEF, The World Bank and Global Citizen have joined forces to issue a statement calling for an investment in early childhood education and care (ECEC), saying the earliest years of a child’s learning journey set the pace for future life trajectories. 


“It is time for a world ready to learn, where all children have access to quality early childhood education and enter school equipped with the skills they need to learn, succeed and prosper” the statement reads, attributing the “learning crisis” the world is facing today “has its roots in children’s earliest years, when failure to invest in quality early childhood education results in children starting school not ready to learn and succeed.” 


A failure to provide adequate investment in this space, the statement continues, has resulted in “millions of children entering education systems already behind in a host of critical skills they need to succeed in primary school.”


Investing in ECEC, and in the foundations of learning, is described in the statement as “a proven solution to closing learning gaps, strengthening education systems, providing a solid foundation for human capital development and supporting a country’s goals for economic growth and development.”


In spite of the available evidence in support of investing in early learning, more than 175 million children – nearly half of the global population of children eligible for early childhood education – are not enrolled in pre-primary education. 


For low income countries, typically only one in five children is enrolled, and in Africa alone, the continental average gross enrolment ratio in pre-primary education stands at 33 per cent. 


Signatories to the statement agreed on “the urgent need for joint advocacy and action” to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for universal access to quality pre-primary education by 2030 (target 4.2). 


“We acknowledge that much progress has been made in the past decade to make the case for early childhood education and that champion governments have shown what is possible to achieve for children when political commitment is backed by smart policies and investments” authors said.


While the global momentum on early childhood education is growing, crucial efforts made thus far “are not enough.” 


Domestic budgets and international aid, the authors said, have not recognised the potential returns on investment in early learning. 


Only 0.7 per cent of international aid to education is allocated to pre-primary education. Across Africa, pre-primary education receives the smallest share of the education budget, averaging 3.3 per cent overall and only 2 per cent in low-income countries. 


Worldwide, this underinvestment means that less than a quarter of all countries have achieved or nearly achieved 100 per cent enrolment. 


“We call on the global community to take collective and complementary action on five interlinked areas that are crucial to achieve transformational and cost-effective change for young children and nations” the authors said. 


The five areas for collective and complementary action are: 

  • Political will for early childhood education – Raise the profile of early childhood education at high-level global, continental, regional and national events and support policy dialogues that prioritize this subsector. 


  • Early childhood education prioritized in sector plans – Urge and support leadership by Ministries of Education to prioritize at least one year of quality pre-primary education in sector planning, budgeting and implementation. 


  • More and better domestic and international financing for early childhood education – Significantly increase the share of domestic finance and international education aid directed towards pre-primary education. 


  • Commitment to early childhood education systems and quality – Invest in strong and sustainable systems for quality early childhood education, with a focus on setting and meeting quality standards, and mobilizing resources to massively increase the supply of capable and effective pre-primary teachers. 


  • Targeted and aligned investments – Jointly galvanize political support and resources and align our efforts to deliver on SDG 4.2 and CESA commitments to early childhood education. 


“We are united in a vision of a world where all children enter school with the skills to learn, succeed and prosper. This can only be achieved if early childhood education is a priority for governments and global partners” authors said in closing.


To access the United Nations Children’s Fund report, A World Ready to Learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education – Global report, please see here

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