|Zaida Guerra and her son, Juan Andres Conrado, 5, study at their home in Laguna de Sinamaica, Venezuela.|
UNICEF strives to improve young children’s capacity to develop and learn, and to ensure that educational environments provide the tools they need to flourish. We want to ensure that no child is at a disadvantage and that children can realize their fullest potential, both inside and outside the classroom.
Our work on behalf of school readiness rests on three pillars: children’s readiness for school; school’s readiness for children; and families’ readiness for school. Together, these pillars bolster children’s likelihood of success.
Children’s readiness for school affects their learning and development. Schools’ readiness for children ensures learning environments are child-friendly and adapt to the diverse needs of young learners and their families. In turn, families’ readiness for school connotes a positive and supportive approach to education, their children’s learning and the transition from home to school.
Families and communities have critical roles in preparing children for school. Learning begins at birth, and the years from birth to roughly age three are the most crucial period in the development of the human brain.
With this in mind, UNICEF’s efforts towards school readiness include parenting education and community-based ECD programmes, along with formal preschool programmes and peer-led learning initiatives. In many countries, parenting education initiatives integrate adult literacy with parenting and life skills education.
In countries with a tradition of community childcare, UNICEF promotes community-based early childhood care and development programmes, as well as linking formal preschool programmes to primary schools and using national standards for school readiness. This approach may also entail training traditional caregivers in up-to-date ECD practices.
UNICEF has partnered with London’s Child-to-Child Trust to develop Getting Ready for School: A child-to-child approach, which provides cost-effective and efficient ECD interventions in developing countries without strong formal early learning opportunities. Through this approach, older children are empowered to help younger peers gain linguistic, social and emotional tools for successful learning.
Recognizing that ECD can be a great equalizer for the most disadvantaged, UNICEF’s flexible policy initiatives aim to reach children who are poor, vulnerable and marginalized.
By ensuring that children achieve school readiness, we also help reach Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3: achieving universal primary education, and promoting gender equality and empowering women.
Early childhood development programmes represent a cost-effective investment in children’s future and yield tangible returns for society as a whole.
Getting Ready for School: A Child-to-Child Approach