Early childhood

The Issue

UNICEF in Action

Resources on Early Childhood Development



© UNICEF/McConnico/2011








For the purposes of quality framework, ECE services are defined as educational arrangements that target children aged three to seven (before Grade One). This corresponds to ISCED Level 0 - equal to pre-primary education as defined by OECD in 1997. Early education services may be provided by public, private, non-profit, and community-based services, including faith-based services, through a centre-based approach. While recognizing the importance of home-based and parent-mediated early childhood education, the focus here is on centre-based early education. Early childhood programmes for children in the age group birth to three are also not included as they fall within the realm of child development rather than education and involve different sets of actors and agents.

It is appreciated that a framework that addresses the quality of health, protection and welfare services for children under age three and their families is needed. However, for the sake of conceptual clarity this framework is limited to services provided through ECE centers.

Any early childhood education system is composed of several building blocks and a number of questions relating to the quality of each of these building blocks need to be articulated. We describe very briefly the building blocks as well as relevant questions relating to quality in Table 1. Again, a comprehensive framework that addresses the quality of the early childhood education system in a country would necessarily include all these and more questions. The Quality Framework proposed in Volume II restricts itself to blocks 1, 2 and 4. The overall discussion on quality however cannot be divided up into neat and mutually exclusive categories and we refrain from attempting to do this in the later sections of Volume I.


 Building Blocks  Examples of Quality-related Questions
1. Service Delivery and quality ECE interventions
  •  Are services equitable and inclusive?
  • Are services esponsive to and respectful of the rights and needs of young children and their families?
 2. ECE Workforce
  •  Are early educators adequatly trained and skilled?
  • Do they receive adequate mentoring and remuneration?
 3. Information Systems Production, analysis, disemination and use of reliable information
  •  Are data on ECE collected using valid methods routinely?
  • Are data analyses made available for evidence-based decision-making?
 4. Curricula, Pedagogy, Teaching-Learning Resources
  • Are these based on child rights principles andthe science of how children develop and learn?
  • Are learning resources developmentally appropriate?
 5. Financing
  •  Are available funds adequate to implement policy commitments?
  • Are funds used efficiently and effectively?
 6. Policy, legislation, regulations, governance
  • Is ECE policy and legislation inline with the UNCRC and national policy frameworks?
  • Are regulations enforced? Is the governance infrastructure adequate and effective?

Source: Adapted from, Don de Savigny and Taghreed Adam (Eds.) Systems Thinking for Health Systems Strengthening. Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, WHO, 2009.

Geographically, the focus is on UNICEF’s CEECIS region. Twenty-eight countries and territories are part of the CEECIS region (UNICEF works in 22). Since 1989, these countries have shared a common past.




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