On April 11, Theirworld and UNICEF co-hosted an event with the Global Business Coalition for Education for the launch of Theirworld’s new donor scorecard on early learning and pre-primary education and UNICEF’s new global report, ‘A World Ready to Learn: Prioritizing Quality Early Childhood Education’. An interview of the organizers of both reports took place, followed by a high-level panel discussion and Q&A session.
It is shocking that from birth until the age of five, 90 percent of a child’s brain will have already developed. During this period, children need quality, nurturing care, which includes health, nutrition, play, protection, and learning to thrive later in life. Prioritizing early learning and quality pre-primary education is a central building block in achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 – equitable and inclusive quality learning for all.
While early learning is fundamental to unleashing the potential of the next generation, governments in rich and poor countries alike are failing to deliver on their promise. A severe lack of investment in early childhood education is putting millions of children at a disadvantage before they even start school. But how far behind are we? What are the consequences for the skills, participation, and future of the next generation?
Armed with answers to some of the hardest questions – the evidence to back them up – we hope governments around the world will begin laying the foundation for universal quality pre-primary education. It’s essential to act on this new evidence – to make sure that all children are not only in school but learning, right from the start.
Today half of the world’s pre-primary aged children are missing out on pre-primary opportunities, and this group of children continue to be a blind spot for domestic and international financing. Four years on from the Sustainable Development Goal promises, little has changed. This lagging investment and prioritization of education for the youngest citizens around the world represents one of the greatest lost opportunities to help children reach their potential and cultivate the world’s human capital. The need for increased investment and support for the early years is greater than it has ever been before.
To highlight the case for early childhood education and the need to invest in the early years, in 2016 Theirworld worked in collaboration with the University of Cambridge to produce Bright and Early – a donor scorecard showing that only 0.6 percent of total aid to education was spent on pre-primary education and early learning. Two years since the release of the report, Theirworld and the University of Cambridge have produced up-to-date research on the direction the international community is moving regarding increased investment in early education, especially for the most marginalized.
In a new data-driven global report, UNICEF is calling for action on this critical area of children’s early lives. This new report provides a comprehensive analysis of the current state of pre-primary education globally, a vision for improving equitable access to and quality of pre-primary education, especially in low and lower middle-income countries, and a set of recommendations for accelerating progress towards achieving the universal target. The report also reflects on the difficult trade-offs countries have to navigate when making achievable and realistic policy decisions to gradually expand access to pre-primary education.
Together, these reports highlight the urgency and action needed to achieve the SDG target of early childhood education for all by 2030.