1 September 2016During their first few years of life, children develop the very foundations of emotional, social, mental and communication skills. This is the period when their brain development is at its most intense, when they are extremely receptive to a wide variety of stimuli, and when they begin to acquire skills and habits that may serve them well for the rest of their lives. However, early childhood presents not only opportunities but great risks as well, as malnutrition and ‘toxic stress’ factors, such as abuse, neglect, poverty and exposure to violence, can result in lifelong negative impacts. This is why children need and have the right to holistic care and education from birth.
UNESCO has been a strong global supporter of comprehensive early childhood care and education (ECCE) for decades, recognizing its critical importance for human development. Most recently, this was reflected in the new transformative Education 2030 agenda adopted in Incheon, Republic of Korea, in May 2015, and encapsulated in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on quality education.
In recent years, countries in Asia and the Pacific have achieved significant progress in making quality ECCE programmes more widely available. However, problems still remain. The quality of ECCE itself and the inequity in access to it persists both within countries and among them. Millions of young children across this dynamic and populous region – especially those living in remote, less developed areas and in disadvantaged communities – have either limited or no access to such programmes. Girls, orphans, children with disabilities, children from poor families or ethnic and linguistic minority groups, and children living in conflict areas, have been among the hardest to reach.
To tackle these challenges, a specific target (4.2) on ECCE was set within SDG 4. It builds on Education for All (EFA) Goal 1 on comprehensive early childhood care and education, and seeks to ensure that by 2030 “all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.”
This UNESCO report intends to serve as a reference and baseline document towards this ambitious and necessary target. By analyzing how countries in the Asia-Pacific region fared as a whole in achieving EFA Goal 1 between 2000 and 2015, it identifies the region’s successes and challenges in the multifaceted aspects of ECCE. The report also draws lessons from case studies to highlight successful ECCE policies and programmes, with a special focus on quality, equitable access, service delivery, financing and monitoring. Overall, it sheds light on policy directions for quality ECCE for all.
All children across the region belong to the global community of nations and deserve equal opportunities for quality care and education early in life. Moving towards SDG 4.2 will require sustained dedication and innovative approaches from all stakeholders, including investing in ECCE programmes, boosting inter-sectoral co-operation and strengthening the competences of teachers and caregivers.
This report will aid policy-makers and education professionals alike by providing evidence, good practices and lessons learnt for formulating policies and instituting or enhancing ECCE programmes that will benefit young children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, throughout the region.
Title: New Horizons: A Review of Early Childhood Care and Education in Asia and the Pacific
Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok, 2016, 120p.
ISBN: 978-92-9223-547-5 (Print version) ISBN: 978-92-9223-548-2 (Electronic version)
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