Early childhood care and education

GPE supports developing countries to improve equitable access, quality and learning outcomes in the early years by providing technical and financial support.

Children who benefit from quality, equitable, and inclusive early education are better prepared for primary school and will reach better education outcomes. Quality early childhood education (ECE) also helps reduce repetition and drop-out rates in primary school.

Yet access to preschool remains low, particularly for the most disadvantaged children. Worldwide, there are still more than 175 million children who are not enrolled in pre-primary education, including more than 80% of children in low-income countries.

GPE is committed to helping partner countries improve access, quality and learning outcomes in the early years, especially for the most vulnerable children.

ECE is one of the best investments a country can make to prepare children for learning and give them a chance to thrive later in life.

Our results

million invested by GPE to support ECE in more than 35 partner countries
of GPE grants in 2018 included support for early childhood education
gross enrollment ratio in pre-primary education in partner countries in 2016 compared to 19% in 2002
of GPE grants that include an ECE component provide financial and technical support to strengthen the role of pre-primary teachers


GPE in action

Within the GPE results framework, two indicators highlight the impact GPE seeks to achieve in ECE. GPE supports governments to improve access to quality early learning opportunities by:

Supporting ECE sector planning and analysis: Education sector plans should include an ECE component, and development partners will take this into consideration when endorsing the plan.

  • Jointly with UNESCO, UNICEF, and the World Bank, GPE has designed guidelines on education sector analysis.
  • BELDS – a joint initiative by GPE and UNICEF, strengthens countries’ capacity to effectively plan, develop, and implement quality ECE programs.
  • Along with UNESCO, UNICEF, and the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-UNESCO), GPE has developed a new online course - Mainstreaming early childhood education into education sector planning.  This course offers an introduction to the concepts, processes and tools countries need to ensure that pre-primary education is successfully mainstreamed into their education planning cycle.

Mobilizing and delivering financial resources: Through its grants, GPE supports increased financing to ECE in partner countries and promotes domestic and international investments in ECE across the partnership. ECE components in GPE grants can go up to more than US$20 million.

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

Promoting quality learning in ECE: GPE supports quality ECE 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.

Supporting ECE 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.

Exchanging knowledge and innovation: KIX’s discussion paper on ECE maps existing knowledge in ECE, highlights gaps and opportunities, and consolidates existing tools and research, making this information easily accessible to partner countries.

Better Early Learning and Development at Scale - BELDS

GPE and UNICEF joined forces under the BELDS Initiative to strengthen countries’ capacity to effectively plan, develop and implement quality ECE programs at scale. BELDS is funded by GPE with support from the Open Society Foundation, Comic Relief, Hilton Foundation and Dubai Cares.

Intended outcomes

  • Raise the profile of early childhood education so that it is recognized as an essential, integral part of education sector plans and policies and, in turn, make tangible improvements towards ensuring all children have access to quality pre-primary education.
  • Ensure that the ministry of education and other relevant ministries are equipped with the capacities, resources and knowledge to mainstream ECE into education plans, budgets and implementation strategies.

Key facts

  • 4 partner countries are engaged in capacity building activities in 2019: Kyrgyz Republic, Ghana, Lesotho, and Sao Tome and Principe
  • A global toolkit of resources is being developed to support countries with effective planning for early childhood education across all phases of sector plan development
  • Cross-country peer learning and exchanges promote best practices, lessons learned, and collaboration between countries. 


October 10, 2019
Worldwide, at least 175 million children are not enrolled in pre-primary education. A new massive open online course is set to address this gap and support countries in planning to provide all...
September 27, 2019
Register for a new massive open online course on mainstreaming early childhood education into education plans.
September 26, 2019
Lesotho is prioritizing early childhood education to ensure that children can succeed in primary education and beyond. GPE and UNICEF are supporting the country through the "Better Early Learning and...
March 29, 2017
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.