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Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education

The first years of a child's life build the foundations for their learning and development that allow them to succeed in school and beyond. The early childhood education (ECE) research portfolio aims to use research to support the strengthening of ECE systems to ensure all children have a strong start to life. This is being achieved through implementation research into quality assurance mechanisms; benchmarking of early childhood education systems; secondary research into what works, how and in what context to improve equitable access to and learning quality in pre-primary education; as well as research on gender-transformative early childhood education systems. 

Publications

Gender-Transformative Pre-Primary Education: A System-wide approach to tackling inequalities from the early years
Publication

Gender-Transformative Pre-Primary Education: A System-wide approach to tackling inequalities from the early years

Mainstreaming gender within pre-primary education is a priority in tackling gender-related inequalities from the early years. Such mainstreaming requires the commitment of a variety of stakeholders within the education system and beyond, including different units within education ministries, pre-service and in-service teacher training providers, teacher unions, other ministries, academia and civil society organizations. This brief presents key advocacy points and enabling conditions to support education ministries to engage these partners in the delivery of gender-transformative pre-primary education. Advocacy points are aligned with the five components of quality systems: planning and budgeting; curriculum development and implementation; workforce development; family and community engagement; and quality assurance.
Gender-Transformative Pre-Primary Education: Addressing gender inequalities through early years education
Publication

Gender-Transformative Pre-Primary Education: Addressing gender inequalities through early years education

Access to pre-primary education has increased significantly in the past two decades and, as of today, boys and girls are participating equally. However, despite this gender parity in access, the pre-primary education system does not always deliver on its potential to tackle gender inequalities and address harmful gender stereotypes and norms. In particular, children begin to gain insight into certain cultural gender stereotypes as early as the ages of two and three. There is, therefore, a need to proactively incorporate gender-responsive and gender-transformative strategies into the design and implementation of pre-primary education systems to address gender inequalities.
Gender-Transformative Pre-Primary Education: Investing in pre-primary education workforce development for gender equality
Publication

Gender-Transformative Pre-Primary Education: Investing in pre-primary education workforce development for gender equality

Children begin learning about gender stereotypes as early as age two. The pre-primary education system does not always deliver on its potential to tackle and address harmful gender stereotypes while they are being absorbed by the youngest learners. All components of the pre-primary system have a role to play in breaking down these stereotypes. This includes the teaching workforce, who play a crucial role in determining how the education system contributes to gender equality and whose actions can influence children’s learning experiences and their personal gendered views and behaviour. This brief highlights key strategies and considerations to ensure the pre-primary workforce can be prepared to stop gender stereotypes from being perpetuated, and ways they can create a learning environment that is gender-transformative.
Gender-Transformative Pre-Primary Education: Supporting gender-transformative parenting through pre-primary education systems
Publication

Gender-Transformative Pre-Primary Education: Supporting gender-transformative parenting through pre-primary education systems

Children begin learning about gender stereotypes as early as age two. The pre-primary education system does not always deliver on its potential to tackle and address harmful gender stereotypes while they are being absorbed by the youngest learners. All components of the pre-primary system have a role to play in breaking down these stereotypes. This includes parents, who are the primary agents of gender socialization for their children. As young children are in the process of forming their own gender identity, their primary caregivers can reinforce their behaviors and act as role models on how to behave and interact with others. This brief highlights key strategies and considerations to ensure family and community members are active agents of change for gender-transformative education and development.
Gender-Transformative Pre-Primary Education: Tools for gender-transformative policy and programming
Publication

Gender-Transformative Pre-Primary Education: Tools for gender-transformative policy and programming

Gender-transformative pre-primary education requires a coherent system that integrates gender considerations across all its core components for a quality service delivery. This brief presents a set of tools to support policymakers and/or practitioners to progress towards gender-transformative pre-primary education policy and programming, organized by the five core components of quality pre-primary primary education systems: planning and budgeting; curriculum; workforce development; family and community engagement; and quality assurance. The tools provide key gender considerations to strengthen each core component and advocate for gender-responsive and gender-transformative policies and practices.
Tackling Gender Inequality from the Early Years: Strategies for building a gender-transformative pre-primary education system
Publication

Tackling Gender Inequality from the Early Years: Strategies for building a gender-transformative pre-primary education system

Access to early childhood education has increased over the last two decades, with global enrolment rates showing gender parity in access among boys and girls. Despite this gender parity in access, the pre-primary education system does not always deliver on its potential to tackle gender inequities and address harmful gender stereotypes while they are being absorbed by the youngest learners. As such, this research explores the ways in which pre-primary education can become more gender-transformative at a system level and presents 11 key strategies to support this goal. The strategies are organized around five interconnected action areas: planning and budgeting; curriculum; workforce development; family and community engagement; and quality assurance. These strategies can help governments and policymakers to proactively incorporate gender-responsiveness into the design and implementation of their pre-primary education policy and programming, following a system-wide perspective.
COVID-19: A reason to double down on investments in pre-primary education
Publication

COVID-19: A reason to double down on investments in pre-primary education

This paper summarizes the recent UNICEF analysis on investing in early childhood education in developing countries. It provides a benefit-cost analysis of investments in pre-primary education in 109 developing low- and middle-income countries and territories, using data from 2008 to 2019.

News & Commentary

Two children sit on the floor and play with a truck
Article

Right from the start: Advancing gender equality through early childhood education

Authors: Jennifer Vu, Ghalia Ghawi, Nicole Rodger, Divya LataGender transformative Early Childhood Education has incredible potential to change the lives of children, their families and communities around the world by addressing gender inequality in the earliest years of a child’s life.Early childhood is a period of unprecedented growth and development.  During this time,  a child acquires the social, emotional, cognitive and language skills that lay the foundations for their future health, development, wellbeing, positive relationships, and productivity into adulthood.  Early childhood is also a critical period in which children learn the gendered norms, attitudes and expectations of their family, community and society, which impacts how they see themselves in the world. Studies have shown that children begin to have an understanding of their gender by the age of two or three. For example, children who adhere to gender stereotypes avoid toys and activities they believe are not relevant for their own sex. Gender stereotypes about girls’ and boys’ intelligence may also be acquired as early as age six, with girls of this age less likely to believe members of their gender are “really, really smart” and therefore avoid activities for “smart” children. By the time children reach primary school, they have already developed an understanding of how they are expected to behave, how they are valued and what their future role in society will be, based on their observations and conditioning around gender norms. An unmatched opportunity for achieving gender equality  Globally, enrolment in ECE has increased in the past two decades, with current figures reflecting gender parity in most instances. However, behind the overall gender parity figures lie differences in how girls and boys access quality provision and what their experiences in the classroom are. Studies have found that pre-primary educators often uphold gender stereotypes through their interactions with children, selection of learning materials, and encouragement of gendered childhood play. For ECE to realize its gender-transformative potential, there is a need to proactively consider gender equality in the design and implementation of ECE systems. Without this explicit attention, ECE can instead reinforce and reproduce gender inequality. As stated in the recent report by Plan International, Transform Education, UNGEI, and UNICEF, on gender transformative education, education has huge transformational potential. The pre-primary education system, in particular, has a significant role to play in tackling gender inequality  and gender socialization processes right from the start, addressing gender stereotypes and harmful gender norms at the stage that they are being formed.  Building frameworks for gender equality through a gender transformative systems approachEarly childhood education systems need to move beyond simply improving access to education for girls and reaching gender parity. In taking a gender transformative approach, ECE systems should consider how we can use policy, curriculum, pedagogy, play and learning materials, teacher training and parental engagement programmes to support children and parents/caregivers of all genders to reach their full potential, free from gendered norms and attitudes that are discriminatory and limiting. To build gender equitable futures from the earliest years, governments and partners can adopt frameworks, such as UNICEF’s  Build to Last framework, that can help lay the foundation for a coherent pre-primary education system that integrates gender considerations across all its core components for quality service delivery. With the Build to Last framework as a foundation, a forthcoming UNICEF Innocenti report will delve into gender-transformative practices for different areas of the pre-primary subsector, highlighting the role teachers can play as change agents and how parents and caregivers can be engaged to play a key role in their child’s gender socialization. A recent webinar co-hosted by UNICEF and Plan International also focused on advocating for gender-transformative policies and practices in the pre-primary education subsector, recognizing the potential for this to address discriminatory and limiting gender stereotypes, roles and norms, and advance gender equality.  Getting it right from the startA gender transformative approach to early childhood education provides an unmatched opportunity to build gender equitable futures for children, their communities, and countries. Governments, with the support of education partners, must play an important role in taking this work forward to incorporate gender-transformative approaches into their pre-primary education systems to combat the gender stereotypes that children of all genders are taught from birth.  

Project team

Mathieu Brossard

UNICEF Innocenti

Ghalia Ghawi

UNICEF Innocenti

Bella Baghdasaryan

UNICEF Innocenti

Benjamin Blevins

UNICEF Innocenti

Stefania Vindrola

UNICEF Innocenti

Tags

education