The care that children receive or do not receive in their early years determines not only their immediate well-being but plays an important role in their lifelong well-being.
Quality early childhood education and childcare services (also simply referred to as early childhood services) are widely acknowledged as playing an important role in the overall development of children. They also provide an 'umbrella' for a regular monitoring of the health and nutrition status of children at a critical period of growth.
However, children from poorer and rural households and those socially excluded are often found to have significantly less access to early childhood services than those from richer and urban households. And these disadvantaged children, who are most likely to benefit from an early education, are the least likely to be enrolled and continue into primary education, both in highly advanced industrialized countries as well as developing countries.
Governments have a clear role in addressing these disparities and hold a number of essential means to do so, including legal authority, financial and human resources. Throughout the world governments have taken different paths in using these means to fulfil their commitment to parents and children. The governance and financing of early childhood education and care is a complex area of policy that crosses several specialties and sectors and its experience holds many lessons to be learned.
The Socio-Economic Policy Unit of UNICEF IRC in partnership with the Bernard van Leer Foundation is undertaking a cross-national study aimed at increasing the understanding of how the effective implementation of a national policy framework on early childhood development services can contribute to reaching all young children, particularly the most disadvantaged, and help ensure the successful transition into primary education.
Technical work on the study is carried out by a team of international experts, led by Professor Pia Bitto, based at Yale University.
Work on the study includes a systematic review of the literature, investigation of the association between the three factors (programme goals, governance, and finance), country case studies for four low- and middle-income countries in two regions, Eastern and Southern Africa (Zambia and Kenya) and East Asia and Pacific (Cambodia and Laos), and policy recommendations and lessons learned. The research mainly examines national policies, administrative and fiscal responsibilities, and other government actions towards the delivery of early childhood and primary education services.
A comparative report drawing on the literature and the cross-national analysis will be published, as well as four country case study reports.
Governance and financing of early childhood development services
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Resources and policies for childrenPROJECTS ARCHIVE