Early childhood

The Issue

UNICEF in Action

Resources on Early Childhood Development



© UNICEF/McConnico/2011

Why is a conceptual framework for measuring the quality of ECE services needed? 

  • ECE is emerging as a growing policy priority in the CEECIS region and worldwide. Economic, social science and programme evaluations have all shown that investing in education for young children has powerful short- and long-term impacts on children’s learning outcomes, well-being and potential. ECE services are also proven to play an important role in alleviating poverty for children, families, communities and societies.

  • Early education is directly linked to the effectiveness and efficiency of basic education; children who attend preschool are more likely to be ready for primary school and are more likely to persist and succeed in education. Quality preschool education can also play an important compensatory role in reducing the developmental gap between children from resource backgrounds and their more privileged peers.

  • The Education for All goals commit the international community to ‘expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children (Goal No. 1)’. The CEECIS region has made significant progress in increasing and monitoring access to ECE services. However, there has been no systematic evaluation of the quality of existing ECE services.  The proposed quality monitoring framework will provide a comprehensive approach to enable UNICEF Country Offices (COs), government agencies and partners to gather information on and monitor indicators of quality.

  • Quality education is notoriously difficult to define; this is one reason it is so rarely monitored. In early education, as in other levels of education, there are many different components coThere is an important need for data on the quality of ECE.ntributing to quality, e.g. learning environment, teacher quality, the home-school relationship, etc. To accurately measure quality, all of these components must be accounted for. Yet, while there are many tools for monitoring individual aspects of quality, e.g. learning outcomes, there is currently no comprehensive tool that incorporates all the relevant components of quality. The proposed quality monitoring framework will identify and bring together existing instruments into one comprehensive quality measuring package. This will improve and increase efforts to evaluate the quality of early learning services, increase the accessibility of existing tools and increase attention to neglected components of quality.

  • Research shows that in order for ECE to have a positive impact on children’s development, communities and societies, the services must meet a minimum standard of quality. This means that if the quality of existing services in the region is below the minimum threshold that ECE will not bring positive impacts for children and their families. Sub-par levels of quality may even lead to a reversal in the progress made toward increasing access to ECE, given the strong linkages between quality and access. For example, governments may choose to stop or reverse investments in ECE, if the benefits are not clear and if quality levels are insufficient. The proposed quality monitoring framework will raise awareness of the importance of paying attention to all components of quality. For UNICEF COs and partners, the outputs of the quality monitoring framework will provide more evidence to support programmatic improvement and advocacy.

  • Given the low levels of quality in primary and secondary schools in the CEECIS region, there is good reason to be concerned about the levels of quality in ECE. In addition to providing an overall picture of quality, the quality monitoring framework will encourage the identification of individual programmes and policies, which will allow service providers and other stakeholders to focus attention on improving quality.



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