ECCD children more school ready but access to centre-based ECCD programme still low, finds report

09 October 2020
UNICEF and MoE launch the ECCD Evaluation report
From Left: Education Secretary Karma Tshering, Education Minister JB Rai and UNICEF Bhutan Representative Dr Will Parks launch the ECCD evaluation report.

October 9 , Thimphu: While participation in Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) has a positive impact on child outcomes with children who attended ECCD more ready for school than those who did not, access to centre-based ECCD programme is still low, found an ECCD Evaluation Report that the Ministry of Education (MoE) and UNICEF Bhutan released today.

The Report is the first comprehensive national evaluation of ECCD that focuses on ECCD services in the country through multi-sectoral lenses  It assessed the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of the provision of existing ECCD services in Bhutan. The evaluation was based on samples from nine districts across all three regions (east, central, west) with survey responses collected from about 1,036 respondents, child data from 584 children, and 54 interviews.

Education Minister JB Rai said the findings of the report and experiences from the facilitators would give the ministry and its partners, a solid foundation to look forward and achieve the target set by the Government.

“The findings calls for collaborative effort for effective ECCD programming at different levels. This would address quality issues, which is one of the findings of the study and the professionalization of ECCD programmes is one of the major factors that address the quality issues at the service delivery level.”

The report will serve as a critical reference document for the first Multi-sectoral ECCD Strategic Action Plan of Bhutan, which is currently being developed by Ministry of Education and UNICEF. 

UNICEF Representative Dr Will Parks said UNICEF commits to work closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure the safe reopening of public ECCD centres in the country.

“There is much to do in preparation for the re-opening of public ECCD centres so that we can build on the momentum we have achieved over the years and at the same time address the unforeseen consequences centre closures could have had on children during this pandemic.”

ECCD programmes are recognized in providing strong foundations for human development and lifelong learning in the 12th Plan and the Bhutan Education Blueprint 2014-2024.

Key findings:

  • Participation in ECCD has a positive impact on child outcomes.
  • Children who attended ECCD have higher Early Childhood Development Index (ECDI) scores than children who did not across all sample districts. ECDI measures development potential in early childhood for children of 36-59 months.
  • There are no gender difference in nutrition status, infant and young child feeding practices, childcare, health-seeking behaviors, immunizations and disability prevalence.
  • Significant differences in ECDI scores were found between children who received breastmilk for longer than eight months and those fewer than eight months.
  • Children who attended ECCD start formal school at a stronger trajectory, which means they are more ready for school than those who did not.
  • Children whose parents reported as difficulty (e.g. seeing, hearing, self-care)/ special needs had substantially lower ECDI scores that children who were reported to have no difficulties.
  • An interesting finding is related to stunting rates. Within the study’s sample, the overall stunting rate for children aged 36 to 59 months was 21 per cent. The rate for children attending ECCD was lower at 3 per cent lower. A further analysis is, however, required to understand this finding.

The study also highlights gaps in access, quality, planning, implementation, budgeting and coordination.

  • Access to centre-based ECCD programme is still low. There is a need to explore alternative models to increase outreach.
  • Need to reinforce a whole systems approach, which means a strategic multi-sectoral system to improve both access and quality.
  • Creche caregivers, ECCD facilitators and health workers request for more professional development opportunities.
  • National data indicate a high prevalence of disability among young children, which requires further study and targeted strategic interventions.
  • Learning conditions in centres could be improved.


  • A whole-system approach through multi-sectoral collaboration is recommended as a high priority.
  • Improving professional development and provision of better learning conditions.
  • An evidence-based approach to ECCD planning and implementation is seen as a key strategy for addressing the gap in planning and implementation.
  • Important to promote a common understanding of ECCD as a holistic programme focusing on health, education, nutrition and protection through continued advocacy efforts.

The report can be accessed at


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