What UNESCO does in Early Childhood Care and Education

UNESCO supports national, regional and international efforts to expand and improve ECCE equitably in order to give every child the best start in life. It regards ECCE as a fundamental and integral part of the education system: without quality ECCE children begin their lives and educational careers on a shaky foundation with the risk of learning difficulties, dropout and repetition.  

UNESCO seeks to assist Member States in implementing Education 2030 and achieving the SDG Target 4.2. Its activities in ECCE focus on influencing policies and practices through evidence-based advocacy, knowledge generation and sharing, partnership building, capacity building and technical assistance. These include work in teacher development, parenting education and family literacy, and measurement and monitoring. See Resources on ECCE.

UNESCO collaborates with governments and other key stakeholders concerned with the care and education of young children from birth until primary school entry. As this age bracket covers 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 activities focus on promoting holistic and quality pre-primary education for all children over the age of 3, ensuring the use of developmentally appropriate pedagogies and emphasizing the linkages with primary education as well as early childhood health, nutrition and social services.

For the education sector to address the educational and care needs of as many children as possible, including those under the age of 3, UNESCO promotes phasing, partnership and integration of an ECCE component in sector plans and structures as key strategies.

A phased education sector plan on how to address the needs of different age groups can reinforce a government’s commitment to ensuring comprehensive attention to young children. In addition to phasing in terms of age group, phasing in terms of target population, which pays priority attention to the disadvantaged, is important.

Partnerships that involve working with health, nutrition and social sectors as well as civil society and private sector actors can help widen the reach to children and improve quality and relevance.

Integrating an ECCE component in existing sector plans helps ensure the creation of a solid foundation for, and continuity of, learning. Integrating ECCE in sector structures - such as developing family literacy initiatives through adult literacy structures or providing parenting education through community learning centres - is a cost-effective way to expand ECCE.