Investment in quality ECEC is key to tackling poverty, World Bank says

Investment in quality ECEC is key to tackling poverty, World Bank says

by Freya Lucas

June 14, 2022

A recently released report from the World Bank has reviewed the science of early learning, offering practical advice on the key elements and principles of delivering quality early childhood education and care (ECEC).

Quality Early Learning: Nurturing Children’s Potential brings together a group of leading, multi-disciplinary experts in the field of early learning to distill the evidence on cost-effective practices to support children’s early learning in low- and middle-income countries, which have been especially impacted by the changes wrought from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The report emphasises that young children have enormous capacity to learn during their early years – a capacity that must be nurtured and harnessed in a deliberate manner. High quality ECEC can help children develop the cognitive and socioemotional skills, executive function, and motivation that will help them succeed both in school and beyond. Investments in ECEC establish the foundation to build the human capital needed for individual well-being and more equitable and prosperous societies.

 

Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education, said the current window of time presents a unique window of opportunity for many countries to put in place the policies and systems needed to deliver quality and equitable ECEC progressively as access to  it grows.

 

“Getting this right early – both in the early years of children’s lives and in the early stages of setting up an ECE system – is easier and more efficient than remedying gaps in foundational learning and fixing systems of delivery later,” Mr Saavedra added.

 

Low access and poor-quality ECEC have contributed to what experts have termed the global learning crisis. 

 

An estimated 53 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries are “learning poor,” meaning they are unable to read and understand a short text by 10 years of age. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the learning crisis, with learning poverty predicted to rise above 70 per cent.

 

 As countries seek to build back better from the pandemic, even as they face tight resource constraints, investments in quality ECEC should be part of an integral part of national plans to recover and accelerate learning, the report notes, stressing three key points: 

 

  1. Expansion of access to ECEC must be balanced with efforts to ensure and improve quality. To ensure that investments in ECEC lead to improved learning, the scale of ECEC expansion should not exceed the speed at which a minimum level of quality can be ensured.

  2. Investments that lead to more learning for children should be prioritised first. Key investments to boost quality in the classroom – including improving the capacity of the existing stock of the ECEC workforce, adopting age-appropriate pedagogy, and ensuring safe and stimulating learning spaces – need not be very expensive or complex to be effective.

  3. Systems that deliver quality early learning at scale are built intentionally and progressively over time through careful planning and multiple investments, including in the home environment and in other factors that influence early learning outside of school, especially for the most disadvantaged children.

 

“The task is urgent,” Mr Saavedra concluded. “If we hope to produce capable and confident learners ready to face the challenges ahead, we must nurture every child’s capacity with investments in quality early childhood education for all. Too many three-, four-, and five-year-olds are already there. Waiting.”

 

To read the report, please see here

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