A world ready to learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education

Global report on pre-primary education

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Children between the ages of 3 and 6 might seem like they are only just beginning life’s journey.

But in fact, more than 85 per cent of their brain development is already nearly in place.

These early years provide a critical window of opportunity for girls and boys to build the foundations of learning and develop skills that can help them succeed in school and over the course of their lives.

The evidence contained in this report shows that quality early childhood education – preschool – helps place this cycle in motion. By the time a child enters grade one, the foundations for success are already in place.

Yet only half of the world’s preschool-age children receive this early benefit. 175 million boys and girls are not enrolled in pre-primary education during these vital years of their lives. In low-income countries, nearly 8 in 10 children – 78 per cent – are missing out on this opportunity.

This failure limits children’s futures, by denying them opportunities to reach their full potential, and it deepens inequities in later learning. It also limits their societies’ futures, robbing countries of the human capital that every society needs and along with it, the opportunity to reduce inequalities and contribute to peaceful and prosperous futures.

As a global community, we face a shared challenge: to ensure that the graduating class of 2030 starts school at the right time, stays the course and gains the skills every child needs to navigate an increasingly uncertain and rapidly changing future.

This new global report by UNICEF is a call to action for every country to invest in this critical early start, by supporting universal access to quality early education – for every child.

Through a series of data-driven recommendations, governments and advocates can begin building the political will required to invest in, and finance, the rapid expansion of preprimary education, while building new partnerships to make it happen.

The report also outlines the progress that a number of counties – including Ethiopia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia and Nepal – are making in placing universal pre-primary education within reach. We urge other countries to follow the lead of these countries and make this issue a central priority for investment.

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