Early Childhood Care and Education

Early childhood is defined as the period from birth to eight years old. A time of remarkable brain growth, these years lay the basis for subsequent development. Early childhood care and education (ECCE) is more than a preparatory stage assisting the child’s transition to formal schooling. It places emphasis on developing the whole child - attending to his or her social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs - to establish a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing. In line with  the Education 2030 agenda, UNESCO supports national, regional and international efforts to expand and improve ECCE provision equitably so as to provide every child a best start in life.


UNESCO’s activities in ECCE focus on influencing policies and practices through evidence-based advocacy, knowledge generation and sharing, capacity-building and technical assistance. These include work in specific areas such as teachers, monitoring and integration.

UNESCO collaborates with government officials and other key stakeholders concerned with the care and education of young children aged 0-8. As this age bracket covers children in various developmental stages, it is naturally difficult for countries to address all children within this group simultaneously and equally. Prioritization is necessary. In this regard, UNESCO’s ECCE programmes focus on holistic pre-primary education for children over the age of 3, emphasizing its linkages with primary education while ensuring the use of developmentally appropriate pedagogies.

To address the needs of the under-threes, UNESCO promotes phasing and partnership as key strategies. A phased education sector plan on how to address the needs of this age group can reinforce government’s commitment to ensuring comprehensive attention to young children. Partnerships that involve working with health and social sectors as well as civil society and private sector actors can help widen the reach to  children in terms of age coverage and numbers.