Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education for children 3-6 years is a critical part of Early Childhood Development.  A solid body of evidence shows that the foundations for learning are largely built in the early years of life, before a child ever crosses the threshold of a primary school. In fact, attending an early childhood education programme is one of the strongest predictors for supporting a child’s readiness for school, regardless of household or national income level. In addition to setting a strong foundation for learning, equitable access to quality pre-primary education helps make education systems more effective and efficient in addition to being an effective strategy for promoting economic growth.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and target 4.2 specifically, convey a clear objective that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education. Achieving SDG 4 represents a bold challenge: Provide all children with at least one year of quality pre-primary education by 2030. 

Despite the recognized importance and benefits of early childhood education, half of the world’s pre-primary-age children remain without access any type of pre-primary education; many of them live in low- and lower-middle-income countries. In most regions access to early childhood education programmes has been slow and inequitable, not only across but also within countries, as vulnerable children are disproportionately excluded from quality pre-primary education.

This thematic page provides practitioners, policy makers and donors with relevant resources and guidance to effectively mainstream ECE into education sector plans and inform advocacy, strategic planning and program implementation for sustainably scaling early childhood education.

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Key Facts about Pre-primary education

Worldwide there are more than 175 million children who are not accessing pre-primary education.

  • More than 80% of these 175 million children live in low-income countries. (1 in 5 children in low-income countries are enrolled in pre-primary education.)
  • Children from low socio-economic status families are the least likely to attend pre-primary education programs.
  • Less than 1% of international aid to education currently support pre-primary education
  • Less than 2% of education budgets are allocated to pre-primary education in low-income countries.
  • 3 million new teachers are needed to achieve universal pre-primary education.
  • Only 50% of pre-primary teachers in low-income countries are trained.
  • Only 5% of pre-primary teachers globally work in low-income countries.
  • Children of mothers with secondary education are 5 times more likely to attend pre-primary education programs.
  • Children in urban areas are 1.5 times more likely to access pre-primary education than those in rural areas. (There is even lower access to pre-primary education in humanitarian contexts such as in refugee and internally displaced persons camps.)



General Websites

Global Partnership for Education: Early Education,

UNICEF: Early Childhood Education,

Heckman Equation –


Program Guidance/Toolkits

ECE Accelerator: Strengthening Early Childhood Education in Education Sector Planning,

Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF, Better Early Learning and Development at Scale (BELDS): An innovative partnership and knowledge initiative for planning early childhood education,

UNICEF (2019), A World Read to Learn,

Global Partnership for Education, Early Childhood Education, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC),

UNICEF and World Bank (2020), Guidance on Reopening Early Childhood Education Settings

Perry PreSchool Intergenerational Effects Toolkit –

13% Return on Investment Toolkit –

Fadeout toolkit –



Brookings Institute, Education and Early Childhood Development Costing,


Policy Planning

UNESCO-IIEP, MOOC: Mainstreaming early childhood education into education sector planning

UNESCO-IIEP, Planning early childhood care and education in developing countries,


ECE Workforce

Early Childhood Workforce Initiative –

Grainger, P. and Christie, M. (2016) “Measuring pre-service teachers’ Asia literacy and their preparedness to teach Asia”, Teaching Education, 27:3,


Early Learning Standards and Curricula

NAEYC Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators,


Parent and community engagement

Wood, L. (2013), “PALAR as a methodology for community engagement by faculties of education”, South African Journal of Education; 2013; 33(4), file:

Beecher, C. and Buzhardt (2016), “Mobile technology to increase parent engagement”, Interaction Design and Architecture(s) Journal – IxD&A, N.28, 2016, pp. 49-68, 


Measurement and quality assurance

MELQO – Measuring Early Learning Quality Outcomes (2017) –

IDELA – International Development and Early Learning Assessment –


Research from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East

Davirro N. (2023), “Non-State Engagement in Early Childhood Education: Conditions for Success”

Wangila, V. (2017), “The Challenges Facing the Implementation of Early Childhood Development and Education Policy in Bungoma County, Kenya”,  Journal of Education and Practice, Vol.8, No.15.

Ng’asike JT. (2014), “African early childhood development curriculum and pedagogy for Turkana nomadic pastoralist communities of Kenya”. New Dir Child Adolescent Development, Winter(146):43-60.

Kang’ethe, S. and Wakahiu, J. (2015), “Assessment of the Early Childhood Development Policy Implementation in Kenya, Case Study of Ruiru District”, Journal of Education & Social Policy Vol. 2, No. 1; March 2015 78, 



World Bank (2020),

World Bank (20202),

World Bank (2019),

World Bank (2020),

Brookings Institute,


Recording of Past Events

ECE Accelerator Toolkit Introduction –

Small Scaling of Pre-Primary Education: Launching the Global ECE Accelerator Toolkit

Small Scaling of Pre-Primary Education: Launching the Global ECE Accelerator Toolkit