Launching the ECE Accelerator Toolkit to support strengthening early childhood education systems

To support countries with mainstreaming early childhood education (ECE) into education sector planning processes, the Global Partnership for Education and UNICEF co-led the development of an interactive toolkit that can play a critical role in countries’ efforts to strengthen ECE systems and scale up quality ECE so that their young children can have the early learning opportunities that they deserve.

February 12, 2021 by Hsiao-Chen Lin, UNICEF NY, and Christin McConnell, Global Partnership for Education
5 minutes read
Children in a pre-primary classroom in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Credit: Robin Baptista
Children clap their hands in a pre-primary classroom in Zanzibar, Tanzania
Credit: Robin Baptista

Achieving universal access to quality pre-primary education under the Sustainable Development Goal 4.2 is not an easy feat. To accelerate progress towards this goal, there is an urgent need to elevate the focus on early childhood education (ECE) so that it is systematically integrated or strengthened within national budgets and cycles of education sector planning and policy implementation.

To support countries with mainstreaming ECE into education sector planning processes, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF co-led the development of the ECE Accelerator Analysis and Planning Toolkit, as part of the Better Early Learning and Development at Scale (BELDS) initiative.

As a global, practical e-resource, the interactive toolkit can play a critical role in countries’ efforts to strengthen ECE systems and scale up quality ECE, so that their young children can have the early learning opportunities that they deserve.

Strengthening Early Childhood Education in Education Sector Planning Processes

A quick look at the ECE Accelerator Toolkit

The ECE Accelerator Toolkit supports and expands BELDS’ innovative approach to strengthen national capacities to effectively plan, cost and finance, and monitor ECE programs. It aims to:

  • support countries in consultatively developing and mainstreaming ECE plans into the broader education sector plans and budgets; and
  • build capacity in basic ECE data analysis, prioritization, planning and costing for enhanced overall subsector development.

While the online toolkit is free and available to the general public, the main target audience consists of country stakeholders and development partners whose work involves policy-setting, planning, implementation and management of ECE. These include:

  • ECE actors (such as preschool directorate staff from ministries of education, development partners who support ECE or serve as coordinating agencies, local education group members, civil society organizations and private sector partners, etc.);
  • planning, policy, financing and management stakeholders (from ministries of education, public administration and finance, responsible for planning and financing; education sector planning; ECE policy-setting; programming; financing and management of ECE, etc.); and
  • any other organizations that accompany and provide technical assistance to governments throughout the national education sector planning and implementation cycles.

Key features of the ECE Accelerator Toolkit

  • Interactive, customizable and action-oriented tools that support the “how-to” of education sector analysis and planning, such as fit-for-purpose indicators, checklists, templates, and guiding questions that may be populated with recommendations provided in real-time
  • Responsive to stakeholders with a range of technical early childhood education and planning experiences and competencies and at different stages in the analysis and planning cycle – less detail to more is provided across toolkit sections and tools
  • Illustrative country case studies and examples to show how tools have been or may be applied in a variety of contexts
  • Cross-cutting themes and considerations such as inclusion, gender equity, crisis and advocacy
  • Linkages with supplementary resources that provide foundational knowledge on certain issues such as public financing, broader early childhood development costing, and more
  • Tools may be used beyond the context of sector planning, to support other analysis and planning processes – for example, for a funding/grant opportunity; for guiding a subsector reform; for informing ECE policy or legislation; for advocacy purposes; etc.

Informed by the BELDS pilot country experiences and expertise of global partners, the ECE Accelerator Toolkit was developed through a year-long consultative process with dozens of stakeholders.

Starting with resources helpful during education sector analyses and moving to sector plan development, the toolkit thus follows the “journey” that countries go through as part of their planning and implementation cycles. The sections of the toolkit are anchored in the steps and milestones of this journey.

Example of the ECE Accelerator toolkit “journey”
Example of the ECE Accelerator toolkit “journey”

The tools in the first iteration of the toolkit focus primarily on the first two planning stages – education sector analysis and education sector plan development. Additional tools across the other stages of the cycle (implementation and budget execution, annual sector reviews, etc.) will be developed and added over time.

What’s next?

Conceived as a user-friendly and knowledge-sharing “living platform”, the content of the toolkit is available open-source for downloading, translation and contextualization. Key tools are being translated into French and Spanish, and will be made available this spring.

Furthermore, improvements, revisions and other demand-driven tools and resources will be added over time – this will happen gradually as the toolkit becomes widely used and lessons around its use emerge. In particular, the toolkit will be further tested and expanded in the context of the Knowledge and Innovation Exchange project (Scaling up BELDS).

We welcome and encourage government and development partners’ use of the toolkit and their contributions to this dynamic resource. We are eager to receive feedback on how the tools are being used, ideas for improvements or additions, as well as any other suggestions and comments for refining this toolkit.

Upcoming events and webinars

Please join us at a high-level launch event for the ECE Accelerator toolkit on February 16, 2021 at 9 am EST. Co-organized by GPE, UNICEF and ECDAN, the event will provide insights into what worked in the BELDS approach, share reflections from global actors on the importance of strong subsector planning for pre-primary education, and highlight how partners have contributed to and are utilizing the toolkit.

This will be followed by a series of practical webinars around specific sections, tools or topics of the ECE Accelerator Toolkit, with the view of creating a community of practice for learning exchanges. The first webinar is planned for 9.00 am EST on March 2, 2021.

We hope that many of you will use the ECE Accelerator Toolkit, participate in the webinars and become active members of the global community of practice. Our vision is to engage more countries and partners in the approach of strengthening ECE through sector planning processes, and learn from countries’ ongoing efforts and successes.

Together we can make universal access to quality pre-primary education a reality for all children!

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I found it very interesting to read this article. I think the launch of the ECE Accelerator Toolkit is a good initiative to effectively support countries in implementing early childhood education. I think it is certainly an added value that this tool is made available free of charge, it is practically designed, interactive, works with case studies and provides feedback on other resources. I think this Toolkit is ready to use in practice. Your article certainly stimulated me to attend the webinar!

The webinar of 24 February (Smart Scaling Pre-primary Education: Launching the Global ECE Accelerator Toolkit) gave me new insights, especially about the lack of consensus on the ECE. The speaker stated that there should be more advocacy for the system, which I fully support. Without advocacy, and without a broad base of support, it is impossible to reach all stakeholders. There is also a greater need for political will to implement the system: this is a two-way operation, whereby the advocates must enthuse politicians for pre-primary education, so that in the long term, politicians also receive benefits from the system. The focus should not only be on the national and sub-national stakeholders, because then the rural areas will be lost from sight. My great interest in the project is that it focuses on all children in all corners of the world, so this must also be realised in practice, both at the urban and at the rural level. I also fully support the idea that knowledge and experiences should be exchanged between countries. The webinar gave me a different perspective on the rather optimistic system, but only by detecting the pitfalls in advance can you ensure that they are taken into account.

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