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Huge Rise in Number of Children in Asia and Pacific Receiving Critical Early Childhood Care and Education

© UNICEF/India/2012/Abhishek
Representatives of UNICEF and UNESCO, along with Dr Vineta Kaul, releasing a report, titled, Asia-Pacific End of Decade Notes on Education for All - Goal 1: Early Childhood Care and Education.

South Asia records highest increase in pre-primary enrolment worldwide says joint UNICEF-UNESCO report

New Delhi, India (27 Aug. 2012) - The number of children enrolled in nursery and kindergarten in South Asia has nearly doubled over the last decade with 47% children enrolling in pre-primary programs in 2009 as against only 25% in 2000, according to a report jointly released today by UNICEF and UNESCO. 

The report titled Asia-Pacific End of Decade Notes on Education for All - Goal 1: Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) shows that South Asia posted the highest growth in enrolment globally. “This shows how much early childhood care and education has gained ground in the region,” said Ms. Lieke van de Wiel, UNICEF South Asia’s Regional Adviser for Education.

In East Asia and the Pacific, the gross enrolment rate has also increased, rising in most countries from 39% to 52% over the same period. 
“Governments in South Asia and partners in education should be congratulated for this significant achievement of providing young children aged 3 to 6 years a chance to enrol in pre-primary programs thus fulfilling their right to an education,” said Ms. van de Wiel speaking at the launch of the report as part of the South Asia Regional Conference on ECCE - Towards Evidence Based Policies and Practices Before and Beyond 2015.

“Despite this positive development, we should not be complacent. Countries in the region still need to do much, much more to provide pre-primary education to children in South Asia,” she added.

The report examines progress and challenges to early childhood programs in Asia and the Pacific and includes recommendations on what needs to be done to support young children, their families and communities, in all the areas where the child is growing – physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually by 2015.

“The first eight years of a child’s life is a critical period when incredible growth and development occur. It is therefore imperative that we provide holistic and high quality ECCE programmes,” said Mr. Alisher Umarov, Chief of Education, UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office for Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, on behalf of UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok.

ECCE programs cover a wide-range of services such as parenting programs, community-based child care, and formal pre-primary education often in schools.
Exposure to quality ECCE is crucial as this takes place at a time of tremendous brain development that lays the foundation for latter learning. The report notes the growing evidence that children who have participated in high quality ECCE programs exhibit considerable gains in social, educational, health and intellectual spheres than those who have not participated.

However, despite these benefits, public funding for ECCE remains negligible. Although ECCE policies are in place, there are significant gaps in implementing the policies. “What is needed in Asia and the Pacific is that ECCE policies should focus more on the vulnerable and disadvantaged groups,” said Mr Umarov of UNESCO. There is growing evidence that marginalized children benefit the most from ECCE. Expanding quality ECCE, particularly to the most marginalized, therefore could help promote equity and inclusion in education and society in general.

UNICEF and UNESCO hope the report will be used to advocate for more support for quality ECCE; to develop and reform policies to expand ECCE, particularly to the most marginalized children; and to campaign for the inclusion of ECCE in the post 2015 development goals.

The report is part of a series of six reports that reviews the progress of the Asia-Pacific region towards the Education for All (EFA) goals. End of Decade Notes covering the other EFA goals will also be released in the coming weeks.


Note to Editors:
The South Asia Regional Conference on ECCE - Towards Evidence Based Policies and Practices Before and Beyond 2015 is jointly organized by the World Bank and the Center for Early Childhood Education and Development of Ambedkar University. UNESCO, UNICEF, Aga Khan Foundation, Save the Children, CARE India, Sesame Street and the Government of India are also supporting the conference which is being held in New Delhi from 27-29 August 2012.

The report can be downloaded from the below websites:
• UNICEF South Asia:
• UNESCO Bangkok:

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work in the region visit:

For more information, please contact:

UNICEF South Asia: Rajat Madhok, Regional Communications Specialist, 0091-11-24691408 ext 235,
UNICEF East Asia Pacific Regional Office: Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF East Asia & Pacific Communication Specialist, +662-356-9407,

The UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok promotes peace and human development in the region. Drawing on its unique mandate in the fields of education, sciences, culture, communication and information, UNESCO Bangkok aims to make development inclusive, sustainable and culturally appropriate. As technical advisory body, the office assists 46 UNESCO Member States and 13 UNESCO Field Offices in the region to attain a quality Education for All, to mobilize scientific knowledge and science policy for sustainable development, to address emerging ethical challenges, to promoting cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, and to build inclusive knowledge societies. For more information visit:

For more information, please contact:

UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok: Dieter Schlenker, Information and Knowledge Management, UNESCO Bangkok
Tel: +66 2 391 0577 ext. 215;  Email:
UNESCO New Delhi Cluster Office for Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka:



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