Findings from a new study conducted by EI’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) Task Force reveal that, while ECE continues to receive more attention across the globe, progress has been uneven and much more remains to be done.
Despite ECE being the first EFA goal, it remains largely neglected by many public authorities around the world. While access has increased steadily, ECE remains largely in the hands of private providers and the sector is widely unregulated in several countries, which raises serious concern about quality.
The EI study reveals that access to ECE is low, particularly in developing countries, while young children (0-3 years), poor and rural children, those with special needs, indigenous or ethnic minority backgrounds, or other vulnerable groups, are less likely to be in a nursery or pre-school than other groups. There is a general shortage of professionally trained and qualified ECE staff in many countries and male teachers are under-represented, constituting only ten per cent of staff. Conditions of service for ECE teaching staff tend to be inferior to those in other education sectors too.
The ‘Early Childhood Education: A Global Scenario’ study was released at a meeting of the Task Force held in Copenhagen, Denmark, with the Danish Federation of Early Childhood Teachers and Youth Educators (BUPL).
Among the study’s key recommendations were:
- In some countries the split between child-care and ECE needs to be bridged. Ideally, ECE should come under a single ministry of education or department.
- There is an urgent need to address access issues in all countries, particularly for children from low-income families, indigenous or minority groups. Child-teacher ratios and quality standards should be regulated to ensure uniform standards in the sector, particularly between public and private centres, and between rural and urban areas.
- There is a need to improve qualification standards for ECE teachers in many countries, while upgrading training and ensuring adequate salaries, comparable to those in other sectors will help to recruit and retain staff.
- Taking into account that ECE teaching staff remain largely non-unionised in some countries, teacher unions should seek to organise and represent ECE teachers and other staff.
- EI should continue to urge governments to ensure every child has access to good quality ECE services. Further research into aspects of ECE needs to be undertaken at global, regional, national and local levels.
The study is available for download here.
By Dennis Sinyolo, Education International