40 million children miss out on early education in critical pre-school year due to COVID-19

23 July 2020
Ալավերդու մանկապարտեզի լուսավոր դահլիճում մի մեծ խումբ երեխաներ մասնակցում են երգի դասին։
UNICEF Armenia/2020/Margaryan

NEW YORK, 23 July 2020 – At least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on early childhood education in their critical pre-school year as COVID-19 shuttered childcare and early education facilities, according to a new research brief published today by UNICEF.

Produced by UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti, the research brief looks at the state of childcare and early childhood education globally and includes an analysis of the impact of widespread COVID-19 closures of these vital family services.

“Education disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are preventing children from getting their education off to the best possible start,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Childcare and early childhood education build a foundation upon which every aspect of children’s development relies. The pandemic is putting that foundation under serious threat.”

Childcare in a global crisis: The impact of COVID-19 on work and family life notes that lockdowns have left many parents struggling to balance childcare and paid employment, with a disproportionate burden placed on women who, on average, spend more than three times longer on care and housework than men.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, unaffordable, poor-quality or inaccessible childcare and early childhood education facilities forced many parents to leave young children in unsafe and unstimulating environments at a critical point in their development, with more than 35 million children under the age of five globally sometimes left without adult supervision.

Out of 166 countries, less than half provide tuition-free pre-primary programmes of at least one year, dropping to just 15 per cent among low-income countries.

Many young children who remain at home do not get the play and early learning support they need for healthy development. In 54 low- and middle-income countries with recent data, around 40 per cent of children aged between 3 and 5 years old were not receiving social-emotional and cognitive stimulation from any adult in their household.

Lack of childcare and early education options also leaves many parents, particularly mothers working in the informal sector, with no choice but to bring their young children to work. More than 9 in 10 women in Africa and nearly 7 in 10 in Asia and the Pacific work in the informal sector and have limited to no access to any form of social protection. Many parents become trapped in this unreliable, poorly paid employment, contributing to intergenerational cycles of poverty, the report says.

Access to affordable, quality childcare and early childhood education are critical for the development of families and socially cohesive societies. UNICEF advocates for accessible, affordable and quality childcare from birth to children’s entry into the first grade of school.

The guidance outlines family-friendly policies including:

  • Paid parental leave for all parents so that there is no gap between the end of parental leave and the start of affordable childcare;
  • Flexible work arrangements that address the needs of working parents;
  • Investment in the non-family childcare workforce including training;
  • Social protection systems including cash transfers that reach families working in non-formal employment.

 “The COVID-19 pandemic is making a global childcare crisis even worse,” Fore said. “Families need support from their governments and their employers to weather this storm and safeguard their children’s learning and development.”

Media Contacts

Zara Sargsyan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Armenia
Tel: 37477232169
Tel: 37410580174

About UNICEF

UNICEF works to ensure that every child in Armenia is cherished, nurtured and cared for. Building on more than 70 years of global experience and 25 years of achieving results for children in Armenia, UNICEF is committed to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children living in poverty and isolation. From the maternity ward to the end of high school, UNICEF teams up with partners so that all children and families in Armenia benefit from improved policies, services and facilities across the country.

UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information about UNICEF please visit www.unicef.am and www.babycef.am

Follow us on: FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube!