Early childhood education
Building the foundations to flourish in later life
Foundation for a better future
Access to good-quality care and education programmes outside the home are important in providing children with the basic cognitive and language skills they need to flourish in school.
Such programmes can also help foster social competency and emotional development. In fact, it is widely recognized that early childhood care and education form the foundation of a high-quality basic education.
That said, throughout the region too few children are attending preschool programmes. And those that are tend to be from the richest 20 per cent of the population.
Investing in early childhood education can be a powerful way to reduce gaps that often put children with low social and economic status at a disadvantage. Studies show that the returns on such investments are highest among poorer children, for whom these programmes may serve as a stepping stone out of poverty or exclusion.
Early childhood education is linked with Early Childhood Development (ECD). This combines education, health care, nutrition, protection and cognitive stimulation, from the period of pregnancy to 8 years of age to help children achieve their full potential. UNICEF also believes that ECD is the first stage for future learning and success.
ECD can have a positive effect on children. There is burgeoning evidence that high quality ECD for all children is associated with high returns in brain development, learning, and social, emotional and economic outcomes. In this region, data from the education sector show that high quality education and learning opportunities increases the likelihood of children completing primary education.
To promote ECD in the region, UNICEF helped establish the Asia Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) in 2008. Over the past few years, this partnership has brought together over 100 experts on health, education and social welfare from over 18 countries to examine ECD policy, governance and financing for the region.