COVID-19 has hit the learning of youngest children the hardest, especially in low-income countries, demanding the high need for actionable and evidence-based strategies to deliver quality Early Childhood Education (ECE). In the World Bank’s new volume Quality Early learning: Nurturing Children’s Potential, the international body reviews the science of early learning and offers practical advice on key elements and principles to deliver quality ECB.
The report states that 62 percent of children are now enrolled in BCE worldwide, which is a 29 percentage point increase since 2000. However, the world bank says that just 20 percent of those enrolled are in low-income countries, with substantial in-country variation based on factors such as socioeconomic status or geographic location,
The WB volume brings together a group of leading, multi-disciplinary experts in the field of early learning to distill the evidence on cost-effective practices to support children’s early learning in low, and middle-income countries. It emphasizes that young children have enormous capacity to learn during their early years. This capacity must be nurtured and harnessed in a deliberate manner, the authors said.
HIGH QUALITY ECE BENEFITS
The report stressed that High quality ECE helps children develop the cognitive and socio emotional skills, executive function, and motivation that will help them succeed both in school and beyond. Investments in ECE establish the foundation to build the human capital needed for individual well-being and more equitable and prosperous societies.
World Bank Global Director for Education Jaime Saavedra said; “Many countries have a unique window of opportunity now to put in place the policies and system to deliver quality and equitable ECE progressively as access to ECE grows.”
“Getting this right early – both in the early years of children’s lives and in the early stages of setting up an ECE system- is easier and more efficient than remedying gaps in foundational learn ing and fixing systems of delivery later,” said Saavedra,
LOW ACCESS AND POOR-QUALITY ECE
An estimated 53 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries are learning poor, meaning they are unable to read and understand a short text by age 10. COVD-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the learning crisis, with learning poverty predicted to rise above 70 percent. As countries seek to build back better from the pandemic, even as they face tight resource constraints, investments in quality ECE should be part of an integral part of national plans to recover and accelerate learning.
The report stress three key points:
Expansion of access to ECE must be balanced with efforts to ensure and improve quality. To ensure that investments in ECE lead to improved learning, the scale of ECB expansion should not exceed the speed at which a minimum level of quality can be ensured
Investments that lead to more leaming for children should be prioritized first Key investments to boost quality in the classroom – including improving the capacity of the existing stock of the BCE workforce, adopting age-appropriate pedagogy, and ensuring safe and stimulating learning spaces – need not be very expensive or complex to be effective.
Systems that deliver quality early learning at scale are built intentionally and progressively over time through careful planning and multiple myestments, including in the home environment and in other factors that influence early learning outside of school, especially for the most disadvantaged children.