As GPE’s technical lead for early childhood education (ECE), I spend a lot of my workday advocating for increased access to quality pre-primary education programs for children in GPE partner countries. I help design interactive tools and trainings with partners to help governments and national stakeholders better plan, support, and implement early childhood programs in their education sector plans and policies.
I organize knowledge sharing events for GPE countries and partners on promising approaches to scaling ECE services. I provide technical advice on GPE grants that fund early childhood education activities.
And yet, this week I find myself in new territory: as a parent of a 3-year-old girl starting her first day of preschool. And maybe more surprising to me: I’m nervous about it.
Quality preschool programs prepare children for learning
I’m grateful to live in Washington, DC, where access to free pre-primary education for 3 and 4 year olds is a reality (many more children around the US may soon have the same experience with the push for universal preschool under President Biden’s proposed American Families Plan).
Yet we know that globally we have so much more work to do - prior to the pandemic it was estimated that nearly half of the world’s pre-primary aged children were not enrolled in early childhood education programs. That number has certainly risen as recent reports indicate that ECE was frequently left out of national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and that it was the level of education where children have lost the most days of schooling.
I am grateful that my daughter’s new classroom environment will follow many of the practices that I know to promote a quality preschool experience: qualified teachers with specialized training in early childhood education, a reasonable child-to-teacher ratio, a curriculum that emphasizes play-based learning, a classroom with age-appropriate play and learning materials, student assessment opportunities to track progress.
I know that while we are still in the midst of the pandemic, her school will follow health and safety protocols similar to the global guidance for ECE settings.