Early Childhood Care and Education in OIC Member Countries
Date : 19 December 2013

The term Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), has been used by UNESCO to refer to all organized developmental services for children during the period from birth until a child enters primary education, which is age 6 or 7 in most countries. The World Bank estimates that around 13% of the world total population is between the ages of 0-6 and 30% of this population live in OIC member countries. ECCE programmes address different age groups ranging from infancy, preschool, kindergarten to early primary grades. Early Childhood Care Programmes are generally for children under age 3 (under-3s) and supervised by ministries of health and/or social affairs. Early Childhood Education Programmes are mostly for children over age 3 (over-3s) and governed by ministries of education. The former is found in around half of the countries in the world, while the latter is existent in all (UNESCO, 2008). Duration of each programme varies by country. Overall, ECCE services are holistic in approach and include various programmes in basically three areas: 1) health, nutrition, hygiene 2) cognitive, social, emotional and physical development; and 3) social protection.

Children are born ready to learn and the fastest development of the brain occurs in the first six years of life. High quality early childhood interventions have lasting effects on learning and motivation. Children, who passed ECCE programmes, get better test scores, have more high school graduations and receive enhanced employment and earnings over a lifetime. In addition, they are more likely to avoid grade repetition and special education (Barnett, 2008). Nobel Laureate Economist James Heckman (2006) stated “early child development is a rare public policy initiative that promotes fairness and social justice, and at the same time promotes productivity in the economy and in society at large”. The earlier the investment the higher the rate of return is.

World Declaration on Education for All (EFA), in 1990, set a vision that “learning begins at birth”. In 2000, 164 countries have reaffirmed this vision, during the UNESCO-Dakar World Education Forum, and agreed in Dakar Framework for Action on specific targets and goals related to ‘Education for All’. Goal 1 of the Dakar Framework for Action calls for “expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children”. Incorporating early childhood care and education into EFA framework has provided a mechanism to focus on problems related to ECCE. UNESCO also called for more policy attention and investment in the ECCE area in order to improve child health and increase early childhood education coverage in all countries.

Against this background, this report presents the state of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in OIC member countries with the recent available data, highlights the obstacles and challenges facing these countries in this important area, and makes some policy recommendations in order to improve ECCE services in OIC member countries.

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