Quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) has the power to transform children’s lives. It can contribute to greater efficiency in education and health systems and a better skilled workforce. Attention to early childhood can also help build more equal and inclusive societies by providing excluded and disadvantaged children with a strong foundation in lifelong learning, and throughout their lives.
The right time is now
Early childhood is the time when promoting gender equality and a culture of peace makes a true difference, as the pace of brain development is at its peak. When children are exposed to values and attitudes that support gender equality and peace at an early age, they are likely to hold them in later stages in life.
“Many things we need can wait. The child cannot. Now is the time his bones are formed, his mind developed. To him we cannot say tomorrow, his name is today.” (Gabriela Mistral) Investing in ECCE is fundamental to the attainment of the Education 2030 Agenda, and the greater United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda.
The inclusion of ECCE in Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) as Target 4.2 recognizes the untapped potential of quality ECCE for individuals and societies and urges countries to “ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that children are ready for primary education" by 2030.
In 2007, UNESCO reminded the international community that half of the countries in the world did not have ECCE policies for children under three years old. Progress has been made on pre-school enrolment in many countries but more work is needed to make ECCE central to education systems and realize its tremendous societal benefits.
UNESCO has partnered with the French National Commission for UNESCO to organise the International Symposium “Early Childhood Care and Education: Cradle for Social Cohesion” being held on 5 to 6 March 2018 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The Symposium reflects UNESCO’s commitment to expand and improve ECCE globally. It builds on the momentum set by the international community for ECCE and increases countries’ awareness about the role of quality ECCE in fostering social cohesion.
The Symposium strengthens the international knowledge and evidence base on good ECCE policies and practices. It also aims to stimulate countries in integrating ECCE, in particular in their implementation of SDG target 4.5 (Inequalities in education), SDG target 4.7 (education for sustainable development, peace and human rights education), and the 2017 UN Resolution on the Declaration and Programme for a Culture of Peace, which sets ECCE as an essential strategy for peace building.
As the lead agency for the coordination of the Education 2030 Agenda, UNESCO promotes inclusion in education through holistic and quality ECCE for all children over the age of 3. UNESCO works on policy and the development of good practice, including in the area of teacher development with the Survey of Teachers in Pre-primary Education (STEPP) project.