Policy Reviews

Target 4.2


The education 2030 agenda recognizes that quality access to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is a critical and urgent investment for the children’s long-term development, well-being and health. ECCE encompasses supporting children’s survival, growth, development and education. This takes place through provision of enhanced and appropriate health, nutrition, hygiene, cognitive, social, physical, and emotional development from birth until age 8. The lifetime development during the pre-natal period and early period has an impact on the child’s development and educational outcomes. Many disabilities emerge are recognized in early childhood, and if not attended to can get severe and affect a child’s development and future participation in learning and life. ECCE lays the foundation for lifelong learning and supports children’s readiness for primary school entry. Readiness to primary school covers a range of domains, including adequate health and nutritional status, and age-appropriate language, cognitive, social and emotional development. It is for this reasons that children need appropriate care as well as opportunities for learning at school, home and community. ECCE is an important development agenda as children’s education opportunities are shaped long before they enter primary school. The linguistic, cognitive and social skills developed during early childhood care and education (ECCE) is the foundations for lifelong learning. Therefore, analysis of the indicators of child well-being in the Arab States informs the status and acknowledges disparities that exist between and within countries of the Arab State region. The second target of SDG 4 agreed globally is that, ‘By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education’ The Arab States have to develop priorities and this is informed by the context and situation analysis that is described below. The policy brief identifies the strategies that address the concerns in ECCE in terms of policy, readiness and participation. Context The UNESCO Arab state region consists of 19 countries drawn from Northern Africa, the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean. The countries are clustered into four categories: Developed (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman); Least developing countries (Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen); Mashreq (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria); and Maghreb (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia). According to the UNDP human development report (2014), extreme poverty increased and the rate of reducing undernourishment was below the target by 20% in the Arab States Region. Some countries of the Arab States Region faced declining economic growth and increase in debt. Most Arab countries are characterized by: a youth bulge; a large informal economy; and almost 35‐50% of the employed are working in non‐agriculture sector. The Region also experienced low rates of employment, of up to 15% in 2013. The region has made progress in the health sector but still experiences significant challenges that include insufficient access to quality health care services. The developmental progress of a child is accounted for using the health and nutrition indicators. Over the past decade the child mortality rates have fallen in the Arab States. The under-five mortality average in Arab States was 41 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015 compared to 65 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000. However, there are huge variations across countries (10 deaths per 1,000 live births in Kuwait and Qatar; 120 deaths per 1,000 live births in Mauritania). In Sudan and Yemen, for example, the under-5 mortality rate remained high, at 69 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013. On average, nearly one-fifth of children under age 5 in the Arab States Region were affected by moderate or severe stunting. Stunting is high in poor countries such as Sudan and Yemen, where onethird or more of children suffer from stunting according to UNESCO GMR (2011) and less in high-income countries like Saudi Arabia at 4.3 per cent according to UNESCO GMR (2015). Since the year 2000, the Arab States Region countries made considerable progress in achieving the Education for All goals. However, the most significant challenge to progress in education is conflict, which exacerbated inequality, poverty, exclusion and marginalization and in particular access to quality education. In this context, this policy brief analyses and discusses the situation of ECCE in the Arab States Region. Situation analysis The key areas of focus for target 2 of the education 2030 agenda are provision, readiness and participation. In this target, countries are to focus on having a one-year free and compulsory preprimary education policy. According to the 2015 EFA Arab States Region review, most countries strengthened their national ECCE policies and legislation. Efforts were also made to improve child survival health and nutrition. In pre-primary education the focus of the Arab states has been on registration, teacher training, setting of educational standards, curricula and monitoring delivery for. The analysis presented below illustrates the status of ECCE in the Arab States Region in terms of readiness and participation. Readiness School readiness is an outcome of the interaction between the child and surrounding environment experiences to maximize the child’s development. Attendance to pre-school education in an organized learning is important for transition and foundation skills. The scope of school readiness focuses on children’s learning, development and a school environment that foster and support a smooth transition for children into primary school. There is also parental and caregiver attitudes that support the children’s early learning and development and transition to school. School readiness is addressed in four domains: literacy and numeracy skills, physical development, social emotional skills and learning. The information captured on the four domains is used to determine the Early Childhood Development Index (ECDI). The ECDI is a percentage of children under 5 years of age who are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial well-being. In other words, school readiness is the percentage of children under 5 years of age experiencing responsive and stimulating parenting. Participation There has been some significant progress in the participation levels in ECCE in some states but regional disparity is large. The Arab states Region GER for ECCE increased from 15.5% in 2000 to 25.3% in 2012. Comparatively, GER for Djibouti was 3% as compared to 87% for the United Arab Emirates. The GER of the Arab state region increased from 24.8% in 2009 to 26.6% in 2013. Most of the pre-primary education costs are financed by households. As at 2012, private providers were catering for 75% of the children enrolled in pre-primary schools in half of the Arab States. In Bahrain and Palestine, for instance, the private sector is the ECCE sole provider, according to the GMR, 2015. The ECCE participation levels are illustrated in below. The trends in GER in the Arab state region are shown below. Policy Recommendations The available data evidence indicates low ECCE enrolment that calls for effective strategic approaches to harness gains for the education 2030 agenda. A number of policy actions on ECCE interventions and monitoring mechanism in place to ascertain progress towards an all-inclusive access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education in the Arab States Region. The following are suggestion of strategies to address ECCE provision, readiness and participation: i. Enact policy instruments that ensure access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education Development of institutional guidelines on child-care, health and nutrition are key to enhancing children’s support in full development during the early years. This involves adapting and implementing legal frameworks that guarantee one year of free and compulsory pre-primary education, and in particular targeting the poorest and most disadvantaged children. The policy instruments when implemented would guarantee the primary school going age cohort foundational skills to transit to primary education. ii. Implement interventions that support access to early childhood development, care and pre-primary education The design of the interventions should aim at raising awareness and understanding of the importance of adequate ECCE at community level. Governments need to increase public ECCE investments to promote early detection of disabilities and child care services, in particular targeting the poor, rural and marginalized areas. This can involve expanding ECCE provision through alternative conventional kindergarten structure, such as home or community based centers. iii. Put in place coordination mechanisms for multi-sectoral ECCE delivery ECCE involves multi-sectoral actors and hence calls for a mechanism for coordination among sectors responsible for nutrition, health, social and child protection, water/sanitation, justice and education. The actors include the government, communities, parents, civil society and the private sector. iv. Strengthening professional development and quality assurance of ECCE All member states require having standardized mechanisms for quality assurance support and training for early childhood development, care and pre-primary education including staff professional development. This will ensure quality delivery of ECCE service. In addition, it is important to monitor child development and learning from an early stage at an individual and system level, including disability assessment. References UNESCO (2015a) Investing Against Evidence: The Global State of Early Childhood Care and Education UNESCO (2015b) Regional Review: Arab States, EFA Global Monitoring Report UNESCO (2015c) Education for All Regional Synthesis Report of the 2015 National Reviews in The Arab States Region UNESCO (2014) Education for All Regional Report 2014 for the Arab States UNICEF Regional Report on Out-of-School Children