Early childhood care and education

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.

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.

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

In the past decade, all regions of the world have increased enrollments in pre-primary education but too many children are still left out.

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

GPE improves the quality and availability of early education, especially for children most often left behind

Our results

million invested by GPE to support ECCE in more than 35 partner countries
of GPE grants to partner countries in 2018 included support for early childhood care and education
gross enrollment ratio in pre-primary education in partner countries in 2015 compared to 19% in 2002
of GPE grants that include an ECCE component provide financial and technical support to strengthen the role of pre-primary teachers


GPE in action

GPE is committed to do more to help developing country partners improve access, quality and learning outcomes in the early years. 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.

Better Early Learning and Development at Scale - BELDS

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

Intended outcomes

  1. 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.
  2. Ensure that the ministry of education and other relevant ministries are equipped with the capacities, resources and knowledge to mainstream ECCE into education plans, budgets and implementation strategies.

Key facts

  • 4 GPE 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 exchange will 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.