- On average, the vast majority (83%) of children between the age of 3 and 5 are enrolled in early childhood education (ECE) across the OECD. In a few countries, it is also common for younger children between the age of 0 and 2 to participate in ECE and over 50% of children in this age group are enrolled. However, only 27% of under-threes are enrolled in ECE on average across the OECD.
- In 14 out of 32 countries with available data, the share of older teachers (50 years and over) is more than double that of the share of the youngest teachers (below the age of 30). In 5 countries, older teachers outnumber younger teachers by more than 4 to 1, which may have significant implications for their capacity to replace retiring teachers in the near future.
- Compared to other levels of education, public funding for ECE is more reliant on regional and local sources than central government, although there are great differences between countries. In 2019, central government sources accounted for 48% of initial public funds for pre-primary expenditure on average across OECD countries.
Policy makers are increasingly aware of the key role that early childhood education and care (ECEC) plays in children’s cognitive and emotional development, learning and well-being. Children who participate in high-quality organised learning at an early age are more likely to have better education outcomes when they grow older. This is particularly true for children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, because they often have fewer opportunities to develop these abilities in their home learning environments (OECD, 2017).
Affordable and accessible ECEC makes it easier for parents to take on employment and contribute to economic prosperity and growth. The increasing number of women entering the labour market has heightened governments’ interest in expanding ECEC services. High-quality ECEC services and other provisions to improve parents’ work-life balance provide greater opportunities to enter employment and combine work and family responsibilities (OECD, 2018; 2011; 2016).
Such evidence has prompted policy makers to design early interventions, to take initiatives that aim to enhance the quality of ECEC services and improve the equity of access to ECEC settings, lower the starting age of compulsory education, and rethink education spending patterns to gain “value for money” (Duncan and Magnuson, 2013). Despite these general trends, there are substantial differences across OECD countries in the quality of ECEC services provided to young children, the types of ECEC services available and the number of hours per week children usually attend.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the delivery of ECEC services as settings around the world closed down to contain the spread of the virus. However, full school closures due to COVID-19 were often shorter at pre-primary than at other levels of education (see chapter on COVID-19). Because ECEC settings in some countries rely heavily on private funding, enrolment disruptions due to health and safety concerns and declining household budgets following job losses and insecurity, have jeopardised the future of a number of them, and hence the participation rates of young children (OECD, 2021).