UNICEF's first-ever global report dedicated to early childhood education highlights a lack of investment in pre-primary education by the majority of governments worldwide
NEW YORK and TORONTO, April 10, 2019 /CNW/ - Governments across Canada are failing to invest enough in pre-primary education, putting 532,000 children between 2 and 4 at a big disadvantage, a disparity that must be remedied, warned UNICEF Canada.
A World Ready to Learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education – UNICEF's first ever global report on pre-primary education – reveals that children enrolled in at least one year of programming before kindergarten are more likely to develop the critical skills they need to succeed in school, and are less likely to repeat grades or drop out of school.
Children not in pre-primary education are missing critical development opportunities and are at risk of suffering deep inequalities from the start, the report notes.
Canada has a higher rate of pre-primary education than lower-income countries, where only 1 in 5 young children are enrolled. However, Canada ranks a disappointing 22nd out of 38 peer countries in equality of access. Most wealthy countries invest, on average, 5-6 per cent of their annual budgets on early childhood education while Canada spends less than 3 per cent.
Inequality of access to pre-school and kindergarten means that children are already at different starting points on their first day of primary school. Even by age 15, those who had more than one year of pre-primary education do substantially better at reading than those with no pre-primary education.
"We need to level the playing field by making high-quality early learning available and affordable for all families in Canada," said David Morley, UNICEF Canada's President & CEO. "All children in Canada should have equal access to high-quality childcare, early learning programs, and full-day kindergarten, to ensure that they are getting a fair start in life."
Globally, an estimated 175 million children of pre-primary age are not receiving any form of education, investments that would pay off many times over in terms of better primary and secondary school performance.
"Pre-primary schooling is our children's educational foundation – every stage of education that follows relies on its success," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. "Yet, too many children around the world are denied this opportunity. This increases their risk of repeating grades or dropping out of school altogether and relegates them to the shadows of their more fortunate peers."
The report notes that household wealth, mothers' education level and geographical location are among the key determinants for pre-primary attendance. However, poverty is the single largest determining factor. Some key findings:
- Role of poverty: Across 64 countries, the poorest children are seven times less likely than children from the wealthiest families to attend early childhood education programmes. For some countries, the rich-poor divide is even more apparent. For example, children from the wealthiest households in the Republic of North Macedonia are 50 times more likely to attend pre-primary education than those from the poorest.
- Impact of conflicts: More than two thirds of pre-primary-age children living in 33 countries affected by conflict or disaster are not enrolled in early childhood education programmes. Yet, these are the children for whom pre-primary education has some of the greatest benefits. Pre-primary education helps young children affected by crises overcome the traumas they have experienced by giving them a structure, a safe place to learn and play, and an outlet to express their emotions.
- Cycle of educational achievement: Across countries with available data, children born to mothers who have completed secondary education and above are nearly five times more likely to attend an early childhood education programme than children whose mothers have completed only primary education or have no formal education. In 2017 an average of 6.6 per cent of domestic education budgets globally are dedicated to pre-primary education, with nearly 40 per cent of countries with data allocating less than 2 per cent of their education budgets to this sub-sector. In West and Central Africa, 2.5 per cent is allocated to pre-primary education, with 70 per cent of children missing out on early education in the region. Across Europe and Central Asia, governments dedicate the highest proportion – more than 11 per cent of their education budgets – to pre-primary education. This lack of worldwide investment in pre-primary education negatively impacts quality of services, including a significant lack of trained pre-primary teachers. Together, low- and lower middle-income countries are home to more than 60 per cent of the world's pre-primary-age children, but scarcely 32 per cent of all pre-primary teachers. In fact, only 422,000 pre-primary teachers currently teach in low income countries. With expanding populations, assuming an ideal pupil-teacher ratio of 20 to 1, the world will need 9.3 million new pre-primary teachers to meet the universal target for pre-primary education by 2030.
Based on the findings of A World Ready to Learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education, UNICEF is urging all governments to make at least one year of quality pre-primary education universal and a routine part of every child's education, especially the most vulnerable and excluded children.
Notes to editors:
SOURCE UNICEF Canada
For further information: Emily O'Connor, Communications Manager, UNICEF Canada, [email protected], Tel./Tél.: +1 416 482 4444 ext/poste 8866 | +1 647 500 4230