Online course on early childhood education planning draws enthusiastic global participation

Reflections from GPE partner country teams on the new massive open online course Mainstreaming Early Childhood Education into Education Sector Planning, co-organized by GPE along with UNESCO, UNICEF, and IIEP-UNESCO.

January 23, 2020 by Christin McConnell, GPE Secretariat, Diane Coury, IIEP/UNESCO, and Ivelina Borisova , UNICEF
4 minutes read
School children in Haiti.
School children in Haiti.
Credit: UNICEF/Haiti

Worldwide, at least 175 million children are not enrolled in pre-primary school. Education policy-makers and planners striving to fill this gap recently completed a new massive open online course (MOOC) on Mainstreaming Early Childhood Education into Education Sector Planning.

Co-organized by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), UNESCO, UNICEF, and the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-UNESCO), the free MOOC took place during five weeks in October and November 2019.

The course gave an introduction to the tools and processes countries need to ensure that pre-primary education is successfully mainstreamed into their planning cycles. The course was aimed at education planners, early childhood education officers within ministries of education, and practitioners working in the field of early childhood education.

Strong participation from GPE partner country teams

Over 3,600 participants from 167 countries registered for the course, of which over 2,000 were from 62 GPE partner countries. In total, 22% of those who registered completed the course, which is a high completion rate for a MOOC. Ministry of education officers comprised the largest percentage of all 500+ graduates of the course in the “champion” or most demanding learning profile in the course.

Interestingly, a number of country teams participated in the course together and met in-person to discuss and reflect on the course material. In Ghana, participants from the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service, universities and representatives from NGOs, gathered weekly to participate in the MOOC discussions and activities together. Ministry of Education colleagues also met to take the course together in Lesotho. This fostered a sense of collective effort and further promoted peer learning and exchanges.

 “Ghana’s education sector plan was finalized earlier this year and we’ve been working on developing a costed action plan for early childhood education (ECE). In particular, Module 4 of the MOOC, which sets the financial feasibility of policy objectives, was helpful to our team because the timing was appropriate and aligned exactly with the ECE development stage, which needed refinement.”

Bernard Ayensu-Djan - Planning, Budgeting, Monitoring/Evaluation Officer, Ghana

“The MOOC has been very informative to all of us. At the Ministry, we watched the videos together, discussed how we could apply it to our context, and then made the assignments. Much of the MOOC speaks directly to the challenges we have in Lesotho, so that has been so very interesting!”

John Mohloua - Senior Protection Officer ECCD, Lesotho

Online course on early childhood education planning draws enthusiastic global participation

Applying the course in country

Participants were active and engaged on the online discussion forum and Facebook page, both of which complemented the course and provided spaces for participants to exchange ideas and develop a vibrant professional community. Participants were able to use these channels to resolve problems together, provide examples from their own experiences and learn from each other. Overall, participants expressed their high satisfaction with the course design, content, resources, and its relevancy for their professional practice.

“I have found this course of great importance in my work as I have come to realize how important quality assurance and monitoring is critical for ESP. For ECE to succeed, issues of quality assurance and monitoring must be given the weight they deserve. The third and fourth modules were critical for me, learning how to go about an ESP has greatly empowered me.”

Njoki Knyugo, Deputy Director of Quality Assurance and Standards, Ministry of Education, Kenya

“The MOOC provided me with further skills in the ECE subsector analysis as well as education sector plan. It really helped me boost the efficiency of our State Education Sector Plan (SESP) Technical Team in improving our skills to develop the SESP. I can confidently organize a sensitization program on the benefits of ECE to communities and advocate for the importance of mainstreaming ECE into ESPs to education stakeholders.”

Oguike Philip, EMIS Head, Imo State Universal Basic Education Board, Nigeria

“We have learned to better understand issues around quality and equity in ECE, and it helped us as managers to shed more light on future activities for our plan. The MOOC has come at the right time, exactly when we are reviewing the education sector analysis, and has given us a better understanding of how we can strengthen ECE in our upcoming strategy.”

Masifiso Chetane - Senior Economic Planner ECCD, Lesotho

Next steps

The success of the MOOC illustrates the high level of engagement on improving education sector planning for the pre-primary education subsector. While the first MOOC on this topic has officially ended, we are reflecting on how this MOOC might be further improved and offered in the future.

The course readers for the 5 MOOC modules are published online in English as a global resource. French versions of the course readers are under development and are expected to be available in the coming months. The course organizers are exploring opportunities for future cohorts to engage in this topic.

The efforts to improve education sector planning and policy for ECE are a main focus of GPE’s Better Early Learning and Development at Scale (BELDS) initiative in partnership with UNICEF. BELDS includes capacity-building activities and peer learning exchange in four pilot countries (Ghana, Kyrgyz Republic, Lesotho, and Sao Tome and Principe). BELDS will launch a global toolkit of resources on ECE in education sector planning in June 2020.

This MOOC has now earned the Quality Matters (QM) Certification, an internationally recognized symbol of online and blended course design quality.

Hannah Maddrey (UNESCO-IIEP), Hsiao-Chen Lin (UNICEF), and Yoshie Kaga (UNESCO) also contributed to this blog

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Although I was unable to complete the course, I enjoyed learning about how Early Childhood Education is important on a global level, and that WE, the educators, administrators, support and even parents are not alone. Children are our future. Thank you for offering this course, and the rich resources that you created for it. I hope that you will offer it again, and I will be able to enroll and complete it. Wishing everyone joy- R

I also participated in this MOOC. I was greatly empowered, I then decided to put it in action by engaging community people in delivering lessons and running advocacy in families so that children can be in school. I am in the process of giving these community workers a small course to assist them know what is needed in ensuring that children are empowered. In Zambia school drop outs and absenteeism are the main problems. Thank you for the MOOC!

Awesome...awesome! I am really fascinated by such a qualitative online interactive encounter. Thank you, IIEP-UNESCO, GPE and UNICEF for the, totally, superb presentations; with online assistive learning devices/tools that never slept. And, guess what, the MOOC was totally free-of-charge! 'Merci beaucoup' y'all.

Greet Maya.

[An alumnus of the 2019 massive open online course on Mainstreaming Early Childhood Education into Education Sector Planning, co-organized by the GPE along with UNESCO, UNICEF, and IIEP-UNESCO].


Sorry I missed this training. ECE is extremely important. Greater effort needs to be made to ensure that practitioners at this level are well trained to provide support at this level.

Estoy muy feliz de haber tenido la oportunidad de participar en este curso, escribo en castellano, para que mis amigos hispanohablantes pueda conocer lo interesante del curso, la importancia de promover la calidad educativa con equidad, tomado en cuenta una buena planificación, el monitoreo y la evaluación de los servicios educativos. He podido comprobar que varios países compartimos la misma problemática y es necesario disminuir las brechas de atención, pero más importante aún mejorar la calidad educativa para todos los niños y niñas, atendiendo la diversidad.

This educational plannin program of children education are awardabale those who have interested for the chance are implemented iam very much well comed these programs

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