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Rights from the start: Early childhood education and care

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Muñoz, Vernor
Publication Date: 
8 May 2012

Campaign and report description:

This report and campaign was launched as part of UNESCO's annual Global Action Week for Education. Global Action Week 2012 focused on the first of the six Education for All (EFA) Goals: "Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children".

Rights from the Start is intended to highlight a truth that should be uncontroversial: that every person is entitled to the right to care and education from birth. However, the shocking fact remains that 200 million children do not receive these rights at all: the report examines government planning and budgets (including donor assistance) to show that many do not prioritise or even include early childhood in the education or national strategies.

Barely half of the countries included in the UNESCO Global Monitoring Report on Education For All are confirmed as having official programmes which provide for children aged three or younger, and many of these reach only a minority of children. Average regional spending on pre-primary education ranges from 0.5% of GDP in Central and Eastern Europe to close to 0 in South and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Early childhood care and education is Goal 1 of the six Education For All goals, agreed by 164 governments in Dakar in 2000, and is affirmed as an individual right in numerous international and regional treaties. But the Rights from the Start report clearly shows that it is a goal that is far from being achieved.

The Global Campaign for Education is calling on governments to commit to:

  • ECCE for all children, without discrimination: Governments must ensure availability of ECCE for all children, taking measures to overcome all forms of discrimination and reduce inequalities in access to and quality of ECCE.
  • Teacher and curriculum development: Governments should ensure that ECCE teachers are trained and supported as professional teaching staff, and that ECCE programmes encompass children's educational, developmental, nutritional, health and individual needs, including through parenting support.
  • Increased investment and improved coordination in early childhood care and education
  • Governments must adopt a single, coherent ECCE policy, which may include work carried out across different ministries and agencies (e.g. education, health), but which has one clear lead agency.
  • Governments should ensure that at least 1% of GDP is spent on early childhood services.
  • Donor governments must honour commitments to support all countries to achieve Education for All, especially Goal One.

There are 1 billion children aged under eight years old in the world, more than 10% of the world's population. The neglect of these children's rights - and the consequent impact on their other rights, their opportunities and their societies - is too devastating to continue. The Global Campaign for Education is urging governments around the world to take action to ensure the realisation of these rights - right from the start.