Early Childhood Care and Education

There is strong evidence that early childhood care and education (ECCE) is one of the best investments a country can make to prepare children for learning and allow them to thrive later in life.

Children who benefit from quality early childhood education programs are better prepared for primary school and will reach better education outcomes. Quality ECCE also helps reduce repetition and drop-out rates, improves school readiness, and increases school achievement.

Positive outcomes are even more pronounced among children from vulnerable groups.

Recognizing the benefits of investing in ECCE, the Sustainable Development Goals include a target to ensure that all boys and girls have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.

In the past decade, all regions of the world have increased enrollments in pre-primary education. But despite significant progress, many challenges remain to ensure that all children have access to quality ECCE services.


There is growing interest in the role of early learning programs in promoting peacebuilding because the foundations of development and learning are laid in the first five years of life. The link...
More than 80 Pacific Islanders working in early childhood education and readiness met this week in Port Vila, Vanuatu, during a workshop supported by the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning (...
This week, the Guyana early childhood education project sponsored a workshop on early childhood education. During this workshop, the importance of children starting school early was stressed. The...
In 2013, Lalao opened her village's first community school. She welcomed 65 students in an old house with a brick floor and desks made of wooden planks.
Learn more about what GPE is doing to help developing country partners improve access, quality, and learning outcomes in the early years.
GPE encourages countries to ensure that children under the age of 5 develop according to their age, and to increase pre-primary enrollment.

The challenge

  • Worldwide, there are still more than 150 million children ages 3 to 5 who do not have access to pre-primary education, including more than 80% of children in low-income countries.
  • The quality of ECCE services remains a serious issue. Many pre-primary programs rely on community workers and volunteers with limited formal pre-service or in-service training.
  • Low and lower-middle income countries tend to invest little in expanding and scaling up affordable ECCE programs for the poorest and most vulnerable children, who ultimately are the ones who can benefit the most from quality ECCE.
  • Conflict is a serious and growing challenge, with less than 5% of children having access to pre-primary school in some countries affected by conflict.


GPE's response

A girl attends a pre-primary school in Zimbabwe. Credit: GPE/ Carine Durand

GPE 2020, the partnership's strategic plan for 2016-2020, commits to improving the quality and supply of ECCE, especially for the most vulnerable children. Within the GPE results framework, two indicators highlight the impact GPE seeks to achieve:

  • Indicator 2: More children under age 5 developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial wellbeing
  • Indicator 6: Increased pre-primary enrollment.

More specifically GPE:

Supports ECCE sector planning, analysis, and exchange of good practice: One of the considerations for endorsing an education sector plan by development partners is that the plan includes an ECCE component. GPE has also designed a roadmap to support the mainstreaming of an ECCE component into education sector plans by developing guidelines together with the UNESCO International Institute for Education Planning and companion guidelines on education sector analysis jointly with UNESCO, UNICEF, and the World Bank.

In addition, GPE supports partners to share knowledge and evidence-based practices to overcome ECCE challenges through technical workshops, peer-learning events and conferences.

Mobilizes and delivers domestic and international financial resources: Through its grants, GPE supports improved financing to ECCE in partner developing countries and promotes domestic and international investments in ECCE across the partnership. ECCE components in GPE grants range from US$1 million to more than US$20 million.

Expands ECCE enrollment: GPE supports partner developing countries' initiatives to launch new laws, policies, public awareness campaigns and financial incentives to increase the number of children in pre-primary education.

Promotes quality learning in ECCE: GPE supports quality ECCE programs including system level investments in management and planning; policy guidelines and service standards; training pre-primary teachers and facilitators; building and rehabilitating classrooms; establishing early learning assessment systems; distributing learning materials; and supporting parent education and community-based early learning programs.

Supports ECCE in countries affected by fragility and conflict: GPE prioritizes helping children whose learning has been compromised because of fragility and conflict and aims to ensure practical solutions in these settings.

Investing in quality ECCE is essential to achieve GPE's goals of improving learning outcomes, promoting equity and inclusion and enhancing the efficiency of education systems.

GPE is committed to do more to help developing country partners to improve access, quality and learning outcomes in the early years. Through the Better early learning and development at scale (BELDS), a new initiative, GPE will build knowledge and foster good practice exchange on how to strengthen ECCE within national education systems.


  • Between 2002 and 2014, the gross enrollment ratio in pre-primary education in GPE’s partner developing countries grew from 16.8% to 28.1%.
  • Since 2013, all partner countries requesting GPE financial support (36 countries/provinces) have included ECCE in their education sector plans. (GPE Secretariat)
  • Approximately 90% of GPE grants that include an ECCE component provide financial and technical support to strengthen the role of pre-primary teachers, including training and learning materials, construction of teacher training centers and by increasing salaries and incentives. (GPE Secretariat, September 2016)
  • GPE has invested about US$180 million in more than 30 partner developing countries to support ECCE.


Country examples

  • A number of grants to Moldova which totaled US$13 million were dedicated exclusively to revitalizing and expanding access to quality pre-primary education. Since joining GPE, Moldova has increased the enrollment in pre-primary education from 66% in 2005 to 84% in 2014.
  • Zanzibar’s education development program for 2008-2016 is the first comprehensive plan to outline specific objectives and priorities for ECCE. An active GPE grant focuses on expanding and strengthening pre-primary education through the establishment of early learning centers based on interactive audio instruction, teacher training and community mobilization meetings.
  • Due to the high costs of the state kindergarten system, the government of Kyrgyz Republic is committed to developing more flexible and cost-effective ECCE programs in an effort to reach underserved children. A series of GPE grants to this country have helped improve the quality and efficiency of ECCE services through the implementation of an accelerated school readiness program, child-centered teaching and learning practices and internationally recognized early child development assessments to inform improved ECCE strategies.
  • Cambodia’s current education sector plan has a strong focus on ECCE. Also, 50% of the current GPE grant is devoted to expanding access and quality of ECCE for 3-5 year old, with a special focus on disadvantaged children and new forms of ECCE service delivery modalities including community based preschools and home-based education programs.
  • In Uganda, GPE is supporting the rollout of an ECCE teacher education certificate program, the revision of the ECCE policy and guidelines, and a costed plan of existing models of ECCE delivery. These activities are expected to establish an enabling environment for quality ECCE scale-up in the future.