School readiness

Children readiness is important to consider since it affects positively not only learning outcomes in primary school but also internal efficiency by reducing repetition and early dropout thus contributing to more children reaching the end of primary. The idea of encouraging children readiness aims at making a smooth transition from early childhood, pre-primary and primary school, and to enable children to gain competencies which could help to be more prepared to learn and understand basic education.

Policies ensuring children readiness have even more impact on poor and more disadvantaged families. Therefore, policies which can be implemented are part of an overall pro-poor economic growth in developing countries and reach social, economic, educational, and political demands. For individuals improved children readiness leads to a reduction in drop-outs, improves learning outcomes, and can increase productivity, employability and revenues when adults if it is combined with better health and sociability skills.

One important factor to stress about school readiness is the fact that learning outcomes are linked to children’s physical and socio-emotional well-being. It is thus important to pay attention to nutrition, protection, hygiene and health of children but also of their mother, from the pregnancy stage and during the early years, where the foundations are built and developmental outcomes are particularly sensitive to the quality of environmental factors. It is today acknowledged that cumulative delays might become difficult to recover, if not by more costly (remedial) interventions.

Two types of programmes are generally considered when it comes to preparing children to go to school: Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and pre-primary education. However other labelling exists such as Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and Early Childhood Development (ECD). Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) refers usually to the 0 – 8-year-old, whereas pre-primary offer more structured leaning format for the 3 to 5-year-old required to cater for more complex competency development needs. 

Parents, children, and schools are the main actors of these programmes since they are active in this integrated approach. The idea is to prepare schools for children and to prepare parents and children for school. This requires bringing continuity between children’s home and pre-primary environments and pre-primary and primary school programmes, and, to ensure smooth transition from one setting to the other. Parents and caregivers are essential and should provide a harmonious, cohesive, and stimulating support; back up by dedicated trained staff and supported by the community.

This is a global evidence that Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) or at least pre-primary education is a key in improving both equity and quality outcomes at primary level and a major issue faced by many LICs today. The current focus would be to prioritize pre-primary (the 3-5-year-old) as a starting point and expand to other well-being dimensions as the system strengthen and capacities increase.

Research shows which aspects of school readiness can be improved, at different levels of action:

  • Lack of trained staff, coordination, funding, and linkage between services.
  • Overly academic programmes for children under 5 can undermine their cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional skills, as well as their motivation to learn.
  • Physical well-being and fine motor development.
  • General knowledge and cognitive skills (from home or pre-primary, capacity to acquire new knowledge and to have a cognitive flexibility with working memory).
  • Pre-academic abilities (language, curiosity, emotional security, self-regulation, self-confidence through play, exploration, and interaction with others).
References
Bruwer, M.; Hartell, C.; Steyn, M. 2014. Inclusive education and insufficient school readiness in Grade 1: Policy versus practice. Pretoria: South African Journal of Childhood Education. http://www.scielo.org.za/pdf/sajce/v4n2/03.pdf

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2017c. Starting Strong 2017: Key OECD Indicators on Early Childhood Education and Care. Paris: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from: https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/starting-strong-2017_9789264276116-en

Sridhar, D. 2008. Linkages between Nutrition, Ill-Health and Education. Background paper prepared for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2009. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0017/001780/178022e.pdf

UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report. 2007. Strong foundations: Early childhood care and education. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001477/147794e.pdf

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2012a. School Readiness: A Conceptual Framework. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: www.unicef.org/earlychildhood/files/Child2Child_ConceptualFramework_FINAL(1).pdf

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2012b. School Readiness and Transitions. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/CFS_School_Readiness_E_web.pdf

Promising policy options

Safe and welcoming social environment

Having a safe and welcoming social environment is fundamental to guarantee that students will have the necessary level to do well in school. This means that a number of conditions need to occur outside of the classroom so that children don’t arrive with a lag to their school.

Regarding nutrition, hygiene, and health, it is important to have adequate water and sanitary infrastructure, and promotional campaigns pushing for proper hygiene practices in households. This will help prevent maternal and child diseases and deaths, and sensitize children to the importance of following sanity and healthy routine from a young age. Additionally, having a nation-wide immunization campaign means that herd immunity is easier to reach and that all students are protected against a range of infectious diseases.

Food-wise, it is important that support systems are in place to guarantee that young children are having adequate amounts of nutrients to foster their development, through the delivery of supplements (iron, zinc, vitamin A), meals and fortified food.

For children from 0 to 2, in order to ensure their optimal development, it is fundamental to have appropriate nutrition, through balanced diets during pregnancy, exclusive breastfeeding until six months and complementary feeding thereafter. They also require medical visits and checks, and protocols starting during the pregnancy.

References
UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2013b. Improving Child Nutrition The achievable imperative for global progress. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: www.unicef.org/gambia/Improving_Child_Nutrition__the_achievable_imperative_for_global_progress.pdf

Child protection

In order to protect children, it is necessary that every newborn has a birth certificate, and that systems are in place to guarantee that those birth certificate can obtain one. This is fundamental since access to all subsequent services in life require children to be registered before the State, particularly when it comes to accessing the school system.

Additionally, policies on violence and abuse prevention need to be set in place, to guarantee that children are growing in safe environments, away from harm and with all the tools to boost their development.

Parents and community involvement

Research shows that early high-quality interventions engaging parents lead to consistent, long-lasting effects on children learning outcomes (Bustamante et al., 2017b cited by IIEP-UNESCO, 2018). Strategies should be different for different age groups. For instance, for children from 0 to 2, provision should be made of a stimulating, secure, protective and welcoming environment to enable children to develop strong relationships with their parents and care-givers and give children the foundations they need to develop further abilities. As for children from 3 to 5, more complex forms of linguistic and cognitive stimulation by parents and care-givers should be provided.

Overall, a supportive learning environment at home, where children can play and learn, is indispensable for children’s learning development. To enhance this aspect various initiatives have been developed, such as Save the Children Emergent Literacy and Math Toolkit ELM. ELM provides various resources to support emergent literacy and math skills, as well as physical and socio-emotional development, not only at preschools and ECCE centres, but at home as well. This initiative has had positive results in Bangladesh as well as Ethiopia, particularly in promoting equity among vulnerable children (IIEP-UNESCO, 2018).

Overall, children should be provided with community infrastructures and safe spaces to hold ECCE and pre-primary, as well as parents’ education and counselling programmes, such as home visits, training in groups (with the children as much as possible).

Education inducing early stimulation

These strategies concern children from 3 to 5 years-old and stresses the importance for children to develop cognitive and social skills in an accurate pedagogic environment.

Appropriate curriculum

In order to boost school readiness, it is important to have a culturally appropriate curriculum with learning goals, pedagogical strategies and appropriate materials that adapt to the different development stages of children. For instance, pre-primary should offer a play-based curriculum, which helps students transition towards primary education through literacy preparation and the development of cognitive skills.

A coherent overall policy including ECCE and pre-primary programmes should exist to link objectives and enable the follow-up of children’s development. One way to do that is through observation and appropriate assessments at national and local level to monitor children school readiness. Several early learning assessment tools exist:

  • Measuring Early Learning Quality and Outcomes (MELQO) developed by UNESCO, UNICEF and Brookings (U.S. Think Tank);
  • International development and Early Learning Assessment (IDELA) developed by Save the Children;
  • Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS);
  • Child development assessment of children entering primary school developed by UNICEF WCARO;
  • Early Development Instrument (EDI) developed by the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario Canada;
  • East Asia Pacific Early Child Development Scales (EAP-ECDS) developed by the Early Childhood Development, Education and Policy Group, Faculty of Education, and The University of Hong Kong; and
  • Regional Project on Child Development Indicators (PRIDI) developed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
References
Fernald, L.C.H.; Kariger, P.; Engle, P.; Raikes, A. 2009. Examining Early Child Development in Low-Income Countries: A Toolkit for the Assessment of Children in the First Five Years of Life. Washington: The World Bank. Retrieved from: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTCY/Resources/3957661187899515414/Examining_ECD_Toolkit_FULL.pdf

IIEP-UNESCO. 2018. Learning at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Science, Measurement, and Policy in Low-Income Countries. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265581

Provision of trained workforce (professionalism, quality of teaching and sufficient quantity)

Recruit different types of professionals (teachers, child-care workers, trained university students), preferably coming as much as possible from the community. Give the same modules and pedagogic framework for pre-primary and primary teachers to encourage a coherent pedagogic transition. Pre-primary should be a play-based curriculum while primary should focus on an academic approach. Sound curriculums that are properly articulated can ensure a smooth transition from pre-primary to primary education.

Assign the most experienced teachers to the first grade of primary to make sure children begin their basic education with the best learning conditions and seeking teacher aides to reduce class size and permit tutoring or small group support to students needing help.

Government management of ECCE

Develop coherent policies, with strong communication between different sectors of the government involved in ECCE and pre-primary programmes with clarification of roles and responsibilities of each other.

Make sure to have statutory entitlements of ECCE programmes and strategies based on a functioning data evidence system.

References
Bertram, T.; Pascal, C. 2016. Early Childhood Policies and Systems in Eight Countries: Findings from IEA’s Early Childhood Education Study. Hamburg: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). Retrieved from: www.iea.nl/fileadmin/user_upload/Publications/Electronic_versions/ECES-policies_and_systems-report.pdf

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). n.d. Encouraging Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). Research Brief: curriculum matters. Paris: OECD. Retrieved from: www.oecd.org/education/school/49322232.pdf

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). n.d. Encouraging Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Research Brief: Qualifications, Education and Professional Development Matter. Paris: OECD. Retrieved from: www.oecd.org/education/school/49322232.pdf

Rao, N.; Sun, J.; Wong, JMS.; Weekes, B.; I. P.; Shaeffer, S.; Young, M.; Bray, M.; Chen, E.; Lee, D. 2014. Early childhood development and cognitive development in developing countries: A rigorous literature review. London: DFID (Department for International Development). Retrieved from: http://eppi.ioe.ac.uk/cms/Portals/0/PDF%20reviews%20and%20summaries/ECD%202014%20Rao%20report.pdf?ver=2014-10-02-145634-017

UNESCO. 2012a. Expanding equitable early childhood care and education is an urgent need. Education for All Global Monitoring Report Policy Paper 3. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002160/216038e.pdf

Vargas-Baron, E. 2005. Planning Policies for Early Childhood Development: Guidelines for Action. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001395/139545e.pdf

Woodhead, M.; Ames, P.: Vennam, U.; Abebe, W.; Streuli, N. 2009. Equity and quality? Challenges for early childhood and primary education in Ethiopia, India and Peru. Bernard van Leer Foundation. Retrieved from: http://oro.open.ac.uk/19304/1/WP_55_Equity_and_Quality.pdf

Other policy options

Conditional or unconditional cash transfers

Conditional and unconditional cash transfers are mostly targeting the most disadvantaged families, with the government being in charge of deciding the way to implement this policy and the people to target. It enables parents to invest in children’s health, nutrition and education according to their choice while encouraging indirectly children’ cognitive development, increasing the psychological well-being of mothers, decreasing financial strain and supporting maternal nutrition and healthcare.

Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) are targeted cash grants that can be provided to the poorest households, conditional upon the school attendance of primary aged children. This can help alleviate resource constraints that prevent families from sending to children to school, while increasing the immediate returns of education. Careful consideration needs to be given to the targeting method, conditions, size of transfer, and entry and exit rules.

While generally proven effective for increasing primary attendance, an argument against CCTs is that they can require a significant amount of discretionary education spending that could be used for other programmes devoted to educational quality. Their long-term use should, therefore, be weighed against more lasting educational reforms. Additionally, CCTs can be costly to monitor, and can still exclude populations who are most in need of transfers.

Carefully select the targeting methods. This means CCTs can target all poor households with primary aged children, or for example, specifically those that are not sending their children to school. Use methods such as means testing, geographical location, community leader assessments, self-selection.

Select appropriate conditions (such as rate of attendance) and size of transfer, and consider entry and exit rules.

Cash transfers and grants can also be provided to impoverished families without any required conditions, to reduce the need for child labour, and to offset other financial related barriers hindering school attendance. Unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) are less costly to implement, and it is argued that if poverty is the main educational constraint, families will use additional funds towards education, even in the absence of set requirements (UNESCO, 2015). UCTs can also empower households to make their own decisions for their children. However, evidence suggests that when CCTs are based on attendance, CCTs have a greater impact on education than UCTs. Like conditional cash transfers, unconditional transfers should carefully consider targeting methods, and entry and exit rules.

Conditional and unconditional cash transfers are mostly targeting the most disadvantaged families, with the government being in charge of deciding the way to implement this policy and the people to target. It enables parents to invest in children’s health, nutrition and education according to their choice while encouraging indirectly children’ cognitive development, increasing the psychological well-being of mothers, decreasing financial strain and supporting maternal nutrition and healthcare.

However, conditional or unconditional cash transfers are very cumbersome to implement and are at high costs. Many countries cannot sustain it without external support.

*For more information, consult Policy page Constraints to attendance.

Centralised or decentralised management

It is important that governments agree and support pre-primary and ECCE programmes. The management of these programmes can be done at the centralised or decentralised level

On the one hand, different ministries involved in ECCE can collaborate to develop national curriculums to ensure that every child can access to this type of education. However, this should be applied equally to every community for the most disadvantaged families to be attained.

On the other hand, these programmes could be more efficient if they were culturally adapted to the communities. In this respect, teachers and parents could be the one developing the curriculums according to the children’s needs and to make the transition to primary school as smooth as possible. However, this autonomy given to communities would prevent the existence of a national strategy for all children and could lead to create more disparities and inequalities among them.

Private or public funding

ECCE programmes are based on a mix of sources of funding, which include private, public, volunteer and community funding. This implies that parents may have several choices of places where they can send their children to benefit from it. However, it can also create some inequalities of ECCE provision among the different communities in a country since parents sometimes only have a constrained choice.

Government, when it is the major provider of funding, can guarantee a certain stability and equality in the allocation of these financial resources, thus can ensure the sustainability of programmes and impacts on children. In the process, governments should ensure the Abidjan Principles are being upheld (The Abidjan Principles, 2019). Note that in many countries ECCE involves many ministries such as the Ministries of Health, Child Affairs, and Justice.

References
Bertram, T.; Pascal, C. 2016. Early Childhood Policies and Systems in Eight Countries: Findings from IEA’s Early Childhood Education Study. Hamburg: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). Retrieved from: www.iea.nl/fileadmin/user_upload/Publications/Electronic_versions/ECES-policies_and_systems-report.pdf

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). n.d. Encouraging Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). Research Brief: curriculum matters. Paris: OECD. Retrieved from: www.oecd.org/education/school/49322232.pdf

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). n.d. Encouraging Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Research Brief: Qualifications, Education and Professional Development Matter. Paris: OECD. Retrieved from: www.oecd.org/education/school/49322232.pdf

Rao, N.; Sun, J.; Wong, JMS.; Weekes, B.; I. P.; Shaeffer, S.; Young, M.; Bray, M.; Chen, E.; Lee, D. 2014. Early childhood development and cognitive development in developing countries: A rigorous literature review. London: DFID (Department for International Development). Retrieved from: http://eppi.ioe.ac.uk/cms/Portals/0/PDF%20reviews%20and%20summaries/ECD%202014%20Rao%20report.pdf?ver=2014-10-02-145634-017

UNESCO. 2012a. Expanding equitable early childhood care and education is an urgent need. Education for All Global Monitoring Report Policy Paper 3. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002160/216038e.pdf

Vargas-Baron, E. 2005. Planning Policies for Early Childhood Development: Guidelines for Action. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001395/139545e.pdf

Woodhead, M.; Ames, P.: Vennam, U.; Abebe, W.; Streuli, N. 2009. Equity and quality? Challenges for early childhood and primary education in Ethiopia, India and Peru. Bernard van Leer Foundation. Retrieved from: http://oro.open.ac.uk/19304/1/WP_55_Equity_and_Quality.pdf

Policy options for improving Equity and Inclusion

Gender-responsive policies

Promising policy options

Develop quality gender-responsive Early Childhood Care and Education programmes

Research reveals that children start defining gender since they are two years old, developing their gender identity and become gender-aware from three to five years old, beginning to form stereotypes after they are five years old (which give meaning to themselves and others) and, between the age of five and seven, those stereotypes are rigidly defined (Martin and Ruble, 2004 cited by Murru et al, 2017). This means that gender-responsive ECCE can have a long-lasting impact on the way in which pupils perceive themselves and others (Plan International, 2017; Murru et al., 2017).

Research findings support that ‘ECCE can compensate for disadvantage and vulnerability, regardless of underlying factors such as poverty, gender, […]’ (UNESCO, 2006, cited by UNESCO, 2010: 3). Governments must, therefore, ensure to every child equal, quality gender-responsive Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) (Murru et al., 2017; UNESCO, 2007).

Gender-responsive ECCE can positively impact children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development, learning, as well as access and retention throughout their educational journey (Murru et al., 2017; UNESCO, 2010; UNESCO, 2007). For instance, girls who attend ECCE programmes ‘are more ready for primary school, cope better, and stay longer than girls who do not’ (UNESCO, 2007: 3) (e.g. ‘The proportion of Nepalese girls and boys with preschool experience enrolling in the first grade of primary education was equal, compared to 39% of girls and 61% boys among the non-participants’ group’ (Arnold and Panday, 2003 cited by UNESCO, 2010: 3). 

References
Murru, A.C.; Nawa-Chimuka, D.; Vandenbosch, T.; Doroba, H. 2017. Gender-responsive pedagogy for early childhood education (GRP4ECE). No. 23 FAWE Conference on Girls’ Education in Africa, 23 August 2017. Lusaka: FAWE Forum for African Women Educationalists). Retrieved from: https://www.vvob.org/sites/belgium/files/fawe_grp4ece_papervvob.pdf

Plan International. 2017. The right to inclusive, quality education. Woking: Plan International. Retrieved from: https://plan-international.org/publications/inclusive-quality-education

UNESCO. 2007. Strong Foundations for Gender Equality in Early Childhood Care and Education – Advocacy Brief.  Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000161195?posInSet=1&queryId=ae8fe20c-6d44-4dc4-b904-07bb645d38d8

UNESCO. 2010. The World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE): Building the Wealth of Nations; Conference Concept Paper. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000368780?posInSet=29&queryId=2f8aaaf5-3719-4fde-b471-321a56f7f8b9

Develop legal and policy frameworks to ensure Early Childhood Care and Education programmes are gender-responsive

Develop a legal and policy framework to ensure the right of every child to quality, gender-responsive ECCE provision. Provide sufficient financial resources for ECCE (Chi, 2018; UNESCO, 2007), allocating national and local funds for ECCE provision, providing free services, when possible, and providing financial incentives for disadvantaged families in order to ensure their children’s access to ECCE.

Collect and disaggregate data by sex regarding ECCE. Analyse whether ECCE programmes are meeting their goals and identify major challenges, such as attendance, participation, performance and/or development of girls and boys (UNESCO, 2007).

References
Chi, J. 2018. Pathways for gender equality through early childhood teacher policy in China. Washington, D.C.: The Center for universal Education CUE Brookings Institution. Retrieved from: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/library/pathways-for-gender-equality-through-early-childhood-teacher-policy-in-china

UNESCO. 2007. Strong Foundations for Gender Equality in Early Childhood Care and Education – Advocacy Brief.  Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000161195?posInSet=1&queryId=ae8fe20c-6d44-4dc4-b904-07bb645d38d8

Implement gender-responsive curriculum, pedagogy, teaching and learning materials in ECCE programmes

Develop a gender-responsive ECCE curriculum, which should challenge gender constructions and respond to the specific needs of all children. Implement a gender-responsive pedagogy in ECCE programmes through gender-responsive pedagogy in ECCE programmes ‘early childhood educators can support children to reach their full potential and not be constrained by gender expectations’ by counteracting traditional gender patterns and roles (Murru et al., 2017: 10)

ECCE teachers should pay particular attention to child-centred practices and mobilize them to challenge children’s gender construction (Murru et al., 2017). For example, toolkits such as FAWE’s Gender-responsive pedagogy for early childhood education (GRP4ECE) can be used for this purpose (for more information consult Murru et al., 2017).

Ensure teaching and learning materials are gender-responsive and thus free of gender-bias and stereotypes (UNESCO, 2007) (e.g. the way in which women are depicted in books and songs; the toys used by boys and girls; etc.) (For more information on how to make gender-responsive teaching and learning materials consult the following Policy pages Availability and content of textbooks; Availability of teaching aids; and, Teacher guides and lesson plans).

References
Murru, A.C.; Nawa-Chimuka, D.; Vandenbosch, T.; Doroba, H. 2017. Gender-responsive pedagogy for early childhood education (GRP4ECE). No. 23 FAWE Conference on Girls’ Education in Africa, 23 August 2017. Lusaka: FAWE Forum for African Women Educationalists). Retrieved from: https://www.vvob.org/sites/belgium/files/fawe_grp4ece_papervvob.pdf

UNESCO. 2007. Strong Foundations for Gender Equality in Early Childhood Care and Education – Advocacy Brief.  Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000161195?posInSet=1&queryId=ae8fe20c-6d44-4dc4-b904-07bb645d38d8

Provision of trained workforce for the delivery of gender-responsive ECCE

In addition to the strategies proposed in the general section of the present Policy page, it is recommended to:

  • ensure that ECCE workforce is equipped with gender-responsive knowledge, skills, and attitudes through quality training opportunities (Chi, 2018) (e.g. this is one of the three main pillars of Norway’s 2011-2013 plan on early childhood education (Chi, 2018). Uganda’s 2016 ESP highlights this strategy as well);
  • enhance the sharing of knowledge and learning between teachers through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), teacher support networks, mentoring, and constructive feedback (Murru et al., 2017; UNESCO, 2007); and
  • ‘include requirements regarding training in gender-responsive pedagogy into ECCE teacher qualifications’ (Chi, 2018: 12).

*For more policy options concerning gender-responsive content knowledge, consult Policy page Content knowledge.

References
Chi, J. 2018. Pathways for gender equality through early childhood teacher policy in China. Washington, D.C.: The Center for universal Education CUE Brookings Institution. Retrieved from: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/library/pathways-for-gender-equality-through-early-childhood-teacher-policy-in-china

Murru, A.C.; Nawa-Chimuka, D.; Vandenbosch, T.; Doroba, H. 2017. Gender-responsive pedagogy for early childhood education (GRP4ECE). No. 23 FAWE Conference on Girls’ Education in Africa, 23 August 2017. Lusaka: FAWE Forum for African Women Educationalists). Retrieved from: https://www.vvob.org/sites/belgium/files/fawe_grp4ece_papervvob.pdf

Uganda. 2016. Ministry of Education and Sports. Gender in Education Sector Policy. Kampala: Ministry of Education and Sports. Retrieved from: https://www.education.go.ug/files/downloads/ GENDER%20IN%20EDUCATION%20SECTOR%20POLICY.pdf

UNESCO. 2007. Strong Foundations for Gender Equality in Early Childhood Care and Education – Advocacy Brief.  Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000161195?posInSet=1&queryId=ae8fe20c-6d44-4dc4-b904-07bb645d38d8

Policies for children with disabilities

Promising policy options

Political will, legal and policy frameworks to provide quality early childhood education to children with disabilities

Political will is of utmost importance to ensure that all children, particularly the most marginalized and disadvantaged in society, such as children with disabilities, have access to quality Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) (IBE-UNESCO, 2008a).

Policy and legal frameworks should be developed to ensure universal access to quality, early educational opportunities to all children (UNICEF, 2014a). For example, in 2013, Macedonia approved a new Early Childhood Development law and 27 new sub laws, which provide the legal and policy basis for the provision of early childhood development opportunities for all children, including children with disabilities (UNICEF, 2014a). Ghana, the Gambia and Kenya have developed early childhood development plans for ‘poor, remote and disadvantaged children’ (Tsegaye Tesemma, 2011: 27). Cambodia’s 2005-2015 National Plan for achieving universal basic education incorporated disabilities as one of its cross-cutting themes and included Early Childhood Care and Education ECCE (UNESCO, 2009). Finally, Lesotho encompassed in its 2005-2015 Education Sector Plan ‘the provision for special educational needs in mainstream early education’ (UNESCO, 2009: 2). Belarus has implemented Early Childhood Intervention programme in eight Development Centres (UNESCO, 2009).

In general, the Ministries of Education should ensure that ECCE programmes are inclusive. Initiatives done by NGOs can provide educational planners with a lot of insight. For instance, Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre established in 2003 in Nairobi, Kenya (AbleChildAfrica, n.d.). Save the Children in Armenia supports government policies meant to create inclusive early childhood education programmes through the development of School-based Early Childhood Development services (Sargsyan, 2016).

References
AbleChildAfrica. n.d. Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre. Accessed 17 July 2019: https://www.ablechildafrica.org/our-partners/littlerock-partner/

Sargsyan, I. 2016. Inclusive Early Childhood Development in Armenia. Yerevan: Save the Children. Retrieved from: https://www.easpd.eu/sites/default/files/sites/default/files/Conferences/ Chisinau/presentations/workshop_2_save_the_children_armenia.pdf

Tsegaye Tesemma, S. 2011. Educating Children with Disabilities in Africa: Towards a Policy of Inclusion. Addis Ababa: The African Child Policy forum. Retrieved from: https://www.eenet.org.uk/resources/docs/6519.pdf

UNESCO. 2009. Inclusion of Children with Disabilities: The Early Childhood Imperative. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000183156

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2014a. Conceptualizing­ Inclusive Education and Contextualizing­ it within the UNICEF Mission: Webinar 1 – Companion Technical Booklet. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/eca/education

Early detection of disabilities

Quality, accessible Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) provides the opportunity to detect multiple disabilities in a timely manner (IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal, 2018).

Ministries of Education, in cooperation with teacher training institutes, should ensure that teachers in charge of ECCE programmes are adequately trained and equipped with screening tools to allow them to identify children’s difficulties and disabilities, as well as those at risk of disability (e.g. since 1994 India trains and equips teachers to screen for visual impairments in schools (Rohwerder, 2017).). After such intervention, the school, in cooperation with relevant ministries, can provide appropriate support mechanisms for children with disabilities and their families from the onset, treatment to prevent or stop impairments from exacerbating and, assistive devices.

Ministries of Education must ensure that the screening tools being used at schools are effective. The following aspects should be considered (Rohwerder, 2017):

  • ‘appropriate screening tools must be quick; low cost; acceptable to the community; easy to use by grass root level workers; and have high specificity and sensitivity’ (Robertson et al, 2012, cited by Rohwerder, 2017: 2); and
  • after the screening in-depth assessment and specific follow-up of actions should be ensured (UNICEF, 2013). Although teachers provide the first phase of the screening, it is necessary to coordinate actions with other sectors, such as the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Health, in order to put in place a wide-ranging system and provide adequate responses (Rohwerder, 2017). ‘Include a mapping of the available services, the development of referral protocols and the preparation of informative materials for families on how to adjust children’s surroundings to enhance functioning and participation in home and community life’ (UNICEF, 2013: 19). Ensure the family’s and community’s involvement and understanding of screening programmes.
References
DFID (Department for International Development). 2010. Education for children with disabilities: improving access and quality. London: DFID. Retrieved from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/67664/edu-chi-disabil-guid-note.pdf

EDT (Education Development Trust); UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2016. Eastern and Southern Africa regional study on the fulfilment of the right to education of children with disabilities. Reading: EDT. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/esaro/Regional-children-with-disabilities-UNICEF-EDT-2016.pdf

GAGE (Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence). 2018. Adolescents with disabilities Gage programme. London : GAGE. Retrieved from: http://www.ungei.org/Adolescents-with-disabilities-GAGE-programme-ODI-report-July-2018.pdf

IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal. 2018. Early childhood education. Accessed 15 August 2019: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/improve-learning/learners-and-support-structures/early-childhood-education

Plan International. 2017. The right to inclusive, quality education. Woking: Plan International. Retrieved from: https://plan-international.org/publications/inclusive-quality-education

Rohwerder, B. 2017. Impact of childhood screening for disability/impairment on education and learning. K4D Helpdesk Report 219. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies. Retrieved from: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/library/impact-of-childhood-screening-for-disability-impairment-on-education-and-learning

Sæbønes, A.-M.; Berman Bieler, R.; Baboo, N.; Banham, L.; Singal, N.; Howgego, C.; Vuyiswa McClain-Nhlapo, C.; Riis-Hansen, T. C.; Dansie, G. A. 2015. ‘Towards a disability inclusive education’. Background paper for the Oslo Summit on Education for Development, 6-7 July 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1865/Oslo_Ed_Summit_DisabilityInclusive_Ed.pdf

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2013. The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities – Executive Summary. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/SWCR2013_ENG_Lo_res_24_Apr_2013.pdf

Parents and community involvement

The parents’ and the community’s involvement is ‘critical in promoting inclusion of children with all types of impairment and in generating low-cost, lasting solutions’ (UNESCO, 2009: 2). Parents’ active involvement through early childhood programmes and early assessments is essential. Parents can gain knowledge about their child’s specific disability, comprehend their needs, and help them optimize their learning potential (UNESCO, 2009; Save the Children, 2006) (e.g. the Early Childhood intervention programme developed in Belarus emphasized the importance of the family’s involvement).

The community should be sensitized on the importance of ECCE programmes for all children, and especially for those with disabilities (UNESCO, 2009d) (e.g. this strategy is included in Uganda’s 2016 ESP (Uganda, 2016).), so as to contribute in detecting disabilities in a timely manner.

For instance, in Mumbai, India, community-based nurseries were developed for 6000 families living in extreme poverty. All of the staff were recruited locally and both children with and without disabilities were enrolled. This approach not only enhanced children’s developmental scores but also contributed to the transition towards mainstream primary schools (UNESCO, 2009).). Build partnerships with Community Based Rehabilitation Centers (e.g. in Ethiopia, the collaboration with CBRs has supported the early identification and assessment of children with disabilities (Ethiopia, 2015).).

References
Ethiopia. Ministry of Education. 2015. Guideline for establishing and managing inclusive education resource/support centers (RCs). Addis Ababa: Federal Ministry of Education. Retrieved from: https://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/sites/planipolis/files/ressources/ethiopia_guideline_for_establishing_and_managing_inclusive_education_resource-support_centers.pdf

Save the Children. 2006. Children who have Disability in Early Childhood Care and Development Centres: A Resource Book for Teachers. Retrieved from: http://www.eenet.org.uk/resources/docs/ECCD_Disability_Manual.pdf

Uganda. 2016. Ministry of Education and Sports. Gender in Education Sector Policy. Kampala: Ministry of Education and Sports. Retrieved from: https://www.education.go.ug/files/downloads/GENDER%20IN%20EDUCATION%20SECTOR%20POLICY.pdf

UNESCO Office New Delhi. 2019. State of the Education Report for India 2019 Children with Disabilities. New Delhi: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000368780?posInSet=29&queryId=2f8aaaf5-3719-4fde-b471-321a56f7f8b9

UNESCO. 2009. Inclusion of Children with Disabilities: The Early Childhood Imperative. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000183156

UNESCO. 2009d. Towards inclusive education for children with disabilities: A guideline. Bangkok: UNESCO. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0019/001924/192480e.pdf

Inclusive curriculum and teaching methods

ECCE programmes must ensure that curriculum and teaching methods are inclusive, with teachers effectively addressing the learning needs and abilities of all children, including children with disabilities.

The curriculum in ECCE programmes is described as ‘developmental rather than academic’ (UNICEF, 2014: 11). Inclusive ECCE curriculum is meant to support children’s holistic development and readiness to school, by helping them acquire not only cognitive and language skills, but also behavioural and emotional ones (UNICEF, 2014).

*For specific policy options concerning inclusive curriculum and teaching methods consult the Policy pages Curriculum, Classroom practices, Teaching skills.

References
Save the Children. 2006. Children who have Disability in Early Childhood Care and Development Centres: A Resource Book for Teachers. Retrieved from: http://www.eenet.org.uk/resources/docs/ECCD_Disability_Manual.pdf

UNESCO. 2009. Inclusion of Children with Disabilities: The Early Childhood Imperative. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000183156

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2014. Inclusive Pre-School Programmes: Webinar 9 – Companion Technical Booklet. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/eca/education

Provision of the trained workforce (professionalism, quality of teaching and sufficient quantity)

In addition to the strategies proposed in the general section of the present Policy page, it is necessary to ensure that the ECCE workforce is adequately trained to include children with disabilities within their classrooms and respond to their particular needs. Pre-service and in-service training must include knowledge, practical skills, expertise, attitudes and values which will allow them to teach children with disabilities. (For specific policy options consult Policy page Content knowledge).

References
UNESCO. 2009d. Towards inclusive education for children with disabilities: A guideline. Bangkok: UNESCO. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0019/001924/192480e.pdf

Policies for displaced populations and host communities

Promising policy options

All the policies from the general category apply for the students from displaced populations and for the host communities.

Other policy options

Interactive Teacher training to foster Emotional Skill Development

It is important to focus on managing emotions for the development of the students. Students whose normal development has been hindered may not have had the chance to learn how to manage intense feelings. Basic emotional skill development includes naming feelings, expressing feelings appropriately, changing the intensity of feelings (i.e., stronger feeling, less intense feeling, no feeling or switched to another feeling). In order to achieve this in a classroom, host communities need to equip teachers to deal with this in an efficient and effective manner. Some of the ways in which this can be fostered are (Teachingrefugees 2014):

  • usage of feeling words and expressions in classrooms. Teaching appropriate emotional expressions correlates with teaching emotional vocabulary, and explaining to students the words they need to use instead of hitting or pushing is important. Schools should focus on working with refugee students to work out the conflicts they face in classrooms. Appropriate exercises need to be put in place to assist students to understand their emotions and work through them. For example, teaching refugees suggests an exercise where they coloured feelings on life-size body tracings of the students, to show where they felt the feeling of happiness, anger, sad, etc. They also built a personal book of how to turn happiness up, turn sad down, etc. (Teachingrefugees 2014);
  • focusing on calming actions, programs, and spaces. Calming and motivating sentences need to be adapted by teachers when having discussions with refugees students, for example, starting a sentence with “What I like about you is..”. Calming strategies will need to apply on an individual level to reap maximum benefits. Pairing up refugee students with other students who speak their language also helps in creating a more conducive environment for them to open up about their emotions;
  • identifying when a student needs to be referred for counselling. Teachers are often the first to refer students for additional support such as counselling. Students with a refugee background are at risk for mental health issues from past losses, multiple stressors, and traumas, as well as current acculturation challenges and additional stressors; and
  • basic counselling teacher-training should become a priority when dealing with students from displaced populations, in order to avoid self-harm and harm to others. This will train them to identify destructive behaviour in classrooms and curtail them from getting out of hand.
References
UNICEF. 2012. School Readiness: a conceptual framework. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/earlychildhood/files/Child2Child_ConceptualFramework_FINAL(1).pdf

Katherine A Magnuson. Jane Waldfogel. 2005. Early childhood care and education: effects on ethnic and racial gaps in school readiness. Published in The  Future of children. Retrieved from: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Early-childhood-care-and-education%3A-effects-on-and-Magnuson-Waldfogel/2b984a82aa4e95cb2577aaa0fe7a5859cf730a5b

World Bank. 2019. Vietnam—Education Projects: School Readiness and Escuela Nueva. Independent Evaluation Group, Project Performance Assessment Report 135418. Washington, DC: World Bank. Retrieved from: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/254991560184295154/pdf/Vietnam-Education-Projects-School-Readiness-and-Escuela-Nueva.pdf

Marietjie Bruwer, Cycil Hartell.  Miemsie Steyn. Inclusive education and insufficient school readiness in Grade 1: Policy versus practice. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1187185.pdf

UNICEF. n.d. School Readiness and Transitions: A companion to the Child Friendly Schools Manual. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/CFS_School_Readiness_E_web.pdf

Mariyam Shareefa. 2016. Institutional And Teacher Readiness For Inclusive Education In Schools Of Hithadhoo, Addu, Maldives: A Study Of The Perceptions Of Teachers. International Journal of scientific & technology research. Retrieved from: http://www.ijstr.org/final-print/july2016/Institutional-And-Teacher-Readiness-For-Inclusive-Education-In-Schools-Of-Hithadhoo-Addu-Maldives-A-Study-Of-The-Perceptions-Of-Teachers.pdf

UNESCO. 2018. Ensuring the right to equitable and inclusive quality education. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000251463?posInSet =6&queryId=9e5cc75d-0a13-40b6-b696-45c01bdec668

UNESCO. n.d. Enforcing the right to education of Refugees: Policy perspective. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000146931?posInSet=22&queryId= 71a0a70a-ea47-49f4-88f3-9c737d27f0ca

Plan International. 2017. The right to inclusive, quality education. Woking: Plan International. Retrieved from: https://plan-international.org/publications/inclusive-quality-education

Build Connections: Tips for Teachers. 2014.Retrieved from: http://teachingrefugees.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Build-Connections-Tips-for-Teachers.pdf

Policies for minority populations

Promising policy options

All policies recommended in the general section apply to this category.

Other policy options

Community Involvement for Parental development

Collaborative planning with parents is key to understanding and supporting children as individuals. Better communication between schools and parents makes the transition to primary school easier and more successful.

Understanding of the religious and cultural needs, migration issues and socio-economic circumstances of parents is essential for a meaningful partnership between schools and parents. Partnering with local community and religious institutions such as mosques may be beneficial in enhancing parent engagement and addressing children’s educational needs.

Potential ethnic bias in the curriculum and pedagogy needs to be identified and rectified (for more information refer to pages Availability and content of textbooks, Curriculum, Student learning assessments, and Individual learning needs).

It is important to move beyond a home and school focus in addressing inequalities, to raise questions about the role of wider educational policy in shaping children’s identities as learners at the start of primary school. There is also a need for a culturally sensitive tool, designed to consider the emotional, verbal and cognitive abilities and needs of a child in order to help develop children’s strengths and identify areas for intervention.

Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education

The artificial separation of health and education in public policy is damaging for early childhood provision. Policy planners frequently measure progress in primary education by enrolment numbers, pupil-teacher ratios and the quality of school infrastructure. Children’s nutritional and health status before school age is assumed to be a health policy matter. Millions of children enter school having suffered irreparable damage to their learning potential as a result of malnutrition. Poor maternal health and risks during pregnancy and childbirth are imperative as well (EFA 2010).

Remove cost barriers to maternal and child health services. The inability of disadvantaged households to afford health costs often leads to fatal delays in treatment or to their wholesale exclusion from formal health care. Research in countries as diverse as Chad, India and Sudan points to cost as a major factor restricting the use by poor women of maternal and child health services (GEM Report 2010). For example, when Uganda withdrew health fees in 2001, the number of outpatients visiting hospitals went the same way as school enrolments after fees were withdrawn several years earlier: attendance rates doubled in less than a year, with the most disadvantaged groups recording the highest increases. (GEM Report 2010)

Early childhood care helps overcome language-based disadvantage and the problems faced migrant children(Cunha et al., 2005; GEM Report 2010). In the Netherlands, Turkish and Moroccan immigrant students who spent 2 years in kindergarten halved the average test score gap from the national average (Leseman, 2002; GEM Report 2010).

In New Zealand, since 2007, all aged 3 & 4 years old are entitled to twenty hours a week of free early childhood education (Froese, 2008; May, 2008; GEM 2010). Efforts are being made to improve the quality of early childhood education available to Maori children.

Curricula and teaching materials have been modified through partnerships with Maori groups. Scholarships and incentives were established and expanded to attract Maori-language speakers into early childhood teaching. This resulted in tripling of the Maori-speaking educators and an increase from 86% to 91% of Maori primary school entrants who attended pre-school. (New Zealand Ministry of Education, 2009)

Training of teachers and other practitioners is required to equip them to adequately support both parents and children from different ethnic and cultural contexts. Children’s centres, drawing on the expertise of health, education and social care professionals, can play an important role in promoting positive home learning environments. There is a need to ring-fence funding for children’s centres in the current period to sustain this strategy.

There is a need for collaborative working by health and education staff, to continue up to school entry to ensure children ‘at risk’ and their families access key services, for example, high quality pre-school provision.

Further research is needed for identifying ways of supporting children and parents from minority ethnic groups for better health and educational outcomes. For specific policy recommendations consult the following Policy pages Curriculum, Classroom practices, Availability and content of textbooks, Student learning assessments, and Individual learning needs.

References
Arnot; Madeleine & Loraine Gelsthorpe. 2014. Migrant children: the litmus test of our education system. University of Cambridge. Retrieved from: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/features/migrant-children-the-litmus-test-of-our-education-system

Dumčius, Rimantas, Hanna Siarova, Ides Nicaise, Jana Huttova. Indre Balčaitė. 2013. Study on educational support for newly arrived migrant children. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Dustmann, Christian, Tommaso Frattini & Gianandrea Lanzara. 2012. Educational Achievement of Second-Generation Immigrants: An International Comparison. Economic Policy 27.

Eurodiaconia. 2014. The integration of children and families with a migration background. An overview of projects among Eurodiaconia members. Eurodiaconia. Retrieved from: http://eurodiaconia.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/mapping-document-on-child-and-familyintegration1.pdf

European Commission. 2009. Commission staff working document: Results of the consultation on the education of children from a migrant background. European Parliament. As of 26 August 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/registre/docs_autres_institutions/commission_europeenne/sec/2009/1115/COM_SEC(2009)1115_EN.pdf

Eurydice. 2004. Integrating Immigrant Children into Schools in Europe. Brussels: Eurydice.

Eurydice. 2009. Integrating immigrant children into schools in Europe: Measures to foster communication with immigrant families and heritage language teaching for immigrant children. Brussels: Eurydice.

Fossati, Flavia. 2011. The effect of integration and social democratic welfare states on immigrants educational attainment: a multilevel estimate. Journal of European Social Policy 21: 391–412.

Heath, Anthony F., Catherine Rothon. Elina Kilpi. 2008. The second generation in Western Europe: education, unemployment, and occupational attainment. Annual Review of Sociology.

Heckmann, Friedrich. 2008. Education and migration: Strategies for integrating migrant children in European schools and societies: A synthesis of research findings for policy-makers. NESSE. Retrieved from: http://www.nesse.fr/nesse/activities/reports/activities/reports/education-and-migration-pdf.

IIEP-UNESCO. 2018. Learning at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Science, Measurement, and Policy in Low-Income Countries. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265581

Punita Chowbey, Ros Garrick and Deborah Harrop. 2015. Preparing minority ethnic children for starting primary school: Integrating health and education. A Race Equality Foundation Briefing Paper. Retrieved from: https://raceequalityfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Health-Briefing-35.pdf

UNESCO-Global Education Monitoring Report. 2010. Education for All: Reaching the marginalized. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000186606
Updated on 2021-06-16

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