Pre-primary Education

Pre-primary education (or early childhood education) for children 3-6 years is a critical part of Early Childhood Development.  Overwhelming evidence now exists to indicate the critical role of starting learning opportunities for children before they enter Kindergarten or grade 1 to take advantage of an earlier time in children’s lives when their brain is growing at an even more rapid pace.  displacement, impacts on family livelihoods and an increase in waterborne and other diseases. 

Science has found that young children can form up to 1 million neural connections in their brain per second.  Early childhood education helps young children develop pre-academic skills, but also important non-academic skills related to social and emotional development.  Due to the overwhelming evidence, the Sustainable Development Goals (4.2) include a target for universal pre-primary education.

There is a growing realization of the importance of pre-primary education, but many hurdles remain.  This thematic page outlines key facts about pre-primary education and provides practitioners, policy makers and donors with key resources.

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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


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

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




Related Documents

The Nurturing care framework for early childhood development: A framework for helping children SURVIVE and THRIVE to TRANS- FORM health and human potential builds upon state-of-the art evidence of how child development unfolds and of the effective policies and interventions that can improve early childhood de- velopment.




The Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN) is an alliance of over a hundred organizations and networks and thousands of members.