1,300,000 children in Madagascar are not enrolled in pre-primary education

UNICEF’s first-ever global report dedicated to early childhood education highlights a lack of investment in pre-primary education by the majority of governments worldwide

09 April 2019
Le nombre d'enfants inscrits dans le milieu préscolaire est encore peu élevé

NEW YORK, 9 April 2019 – More than 1,300,000 children in Madagascar– around 60% per cent of pre-primary-age children – are not enrolled in pre-primary education, contributing to the 175 million children of pre-primary age not enrolled globally, UNICEF warned in a new report released today.

Countries with high numbers of children not in pre-primary education are missing a critical investment opportunity and are at risk of suffering deep inequalities from the start, the report notes. In low-income countries, only 1 in 5 young children are enrolled in pre-primary education.

“Pre-primary schooling is our children’s educational foundation – every stage of education that follows relies on its success,” said Michel Saint-Lot UNICEF Representative in Madagascar. “Yet, too many children around the world are denied this opportunity. This increases their risk of repeating grades or dropping out of school altogether and relegates them to the shadows of their more fortunate peers.”

A World Ready to Learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education – UNICEF’s first ever global report on pre-primary education – reveals that children enrolled in at least one year of pre-primary education are more likely to develop the critical skills they need to succeed in school, less likely to repeat grades or drop out of school, and therefore more able to contribute to peaceful and prosperous societies and economies when they reach adulthood.

Children in pre-primary education are more than twice as likely to be on track in early literacy and numeracy skills than children missing out on early learning. In countries where more children attend pre-primary programmes, significantly more children complete primary school and attain minimum competencies in both reading and math by the time they finish primary school.

UNICEF Madagascar has been supporting the development of pre-primary education for more than 10 years. Meanwhile, pre-primary education in Madagascar has expanded significantly due to the annual increase in public provision and public and community pre-school activity centres, from 195 in 2006-2007 to 15,132 in 2017-2018. The public pre-primary enrolment rate for children aged 3 to 5 years increased from 7.5% in 2004-2005 to 30% in 2017-2018, with parity indices slightly tends to girls.

Although pre-primary education has expanded significantly in Madagascar in recent years, only 30% of children aged 3-5 are enrolled in public pre-primary education, and there is a very large disparity between regions. In Amoron'i Mania, for example, 30% of children aged 3 to 5 years are pre-primary schooling compared to 3% for the SAVA region

Globally, the report notes that household wealth, mothers’ education level and geographical location are among the key determinants for pre-primary attendance. However, poverty is the single largest determining factor. Some key findings:

  • Role of poverty: Across 64 countries, the poorest children are seven times less likely than children from the wealthiest families to attend early childhood education programmes. For some countries, the rich-poor divide is even more apparent.
  • Impact of conflicts: More than two thirds of pre-primary-age children living in 33 countries affected by conflict or disaster are not enrolled in early childhood education programmes. Yet, these are the children for whom pre-primary education has some of the greatest benefits. Pre-primary education helps young children affected by crises overcome the traumas they have experienced by giving them a structure, a safe place to learn and play, and an outlet to express their emotions.
  • Cycle of educational achievement: Across countries with available data, children born to mothers who have completed secondary education and above are nearly five times more likely to attend an early childhood education programme than children whose mothers have completed only primary education or have no formal education.

Leaders must prioritize, and properly resource, pre-primary education

In 2017 an average of 6.6 per cent of domestic education budgets globally are dedicated to pre-primary education, with nearly 40 per cent of countries with data allocating less than 2 per cent of their education budgets to this sub-sector. In Madagascar, 6% of the national education budget is allocated to pre-primary education, which is three times higher than the regional average.

This lack of worldwide investment in pre-primary education negatively impacts quality of services, including a significant lack of trained pre-primary teachers. Together, low- and lower middle-income countries are home to more than 60 per cent of the world’s pre-primary-age children, but scarcely 32 per cent of all pre-primary teachers. In fact, only 422,000 pre-primary teachers currently teach in low income countries. With expanding populations, assuming an ideal pupil-teacher ratio of 20 to 1, the world will need 9.3 million new pre-primary teachers to meet the universal target for pre-primary education by 2030. In Madagascar, on average, there is one educator for every 23 pupils in public and private pre-primary schools.

“If today’s governments want their workforce to be competitive in tomorrow’s economy, they need to start with early education,” said Michel Saint-Lot UNICEF Representative in Madagascar. “If we are to give our children the best shot in life to succeed in a globalized economy, leaders must prioritize, and properly resource, pre-primary education.”

UNICEF is urging governments to make at least one year of quality pre-primary education universal and a routine part of every child’s education, especially the most vulnerable and excluded children. To make this a reality, UNICEF urges governments to commit at least 10 per cent of their national education budgets to scale up early childhood education and invest in teachers, quality standards, and equitable expansion.

Media contacts

Fanja Saholiarisoa
Communication Officer
UNICEF Madagascar

Multimedia content

Rapport prescolaire (cover)

A world ready to learn: prioritizing quality early childhood education


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