Early childhood care and education is increasingly recognized as an essential element in realizing a wide range of educational, social and economic rights. Children from vulnerable households and communities stand to gain most from access to quality early learning opportunities. With about 50 per cent of children globally not yet enrolled in pre-primary education, enabling their inclusion remains a central question for education policymakers, stakeholders and parents.
This Study provides a global overview and an analysis of the adoption of legal provisions for free and compulsory pre-primary education at national level. By offering a rights-based perspective to the implementation of pre-primary education, it aims to complement existing literature on SDG Target 4.2, which focuses mainly on policy outcomes.
The results show that pre-primary education is a well determined and defined right in too few countries. Yet, the benefit of free and compulsory education observed is that children appear to have higher rates of early childhood well-being.
In light of the research conducted and its main conclusions, a set of levers to promote the inclusion of early childhood and pre-primary education as a human right within long-term education and development objectives are presented in terms of governance and financing, legal framework, societal expectations, monitoring and evaluation and early childhood development overall. Prioritizing the needs of young children and the fulfilment of their right to free and compulsory pre-primary education is a critical opportunity for governments to make positive differences in children’s lives and to achieve broader national, social and economic goals.