Early learning

GPE supports lower-income 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.

Early learning is a priority area in GPE 2025. GPE incentivizes countries to ensure all children have access to at least one year of quality pre-primary education while supporting countries to integrate pre-primary into education sector plans and ensure it is adequately financed.


Early childhood education 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

of children
were enrolled in pre-primary education in GPE partner countries in 2020 compared to 19% in 2002.
Gender parity
in pre-primary enrollments
in 2020.
US$270 million
in more than 35 partner countries
invested to support ECE.


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.

  • Together with UNICEF under the BELDS initiative, GPE has developed the ECE Accelerator Analysis and Planning Toolkit, a free online resource to strengthen national capacities to effectively plan, cost, finance and monitor ECE programs.
  • The ECE Accelerator includes interactive and customizable tools with illustrative country case studies and examples to show how resources have been applied in a variety of contexts.
  • Jointly with UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank, GPE has designed guidelines on education sector analysis.

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: GPE’s Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) is currently funding two research projects on ECE:

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 was funded by GPE with support from the Open Society Foundation, Comic Relief, Hilton Foundation and Dubai Cares. A scale-up of the BELDS work financed by a KIX global grant is now underway.

  • 4 partner countries engaged in capacity building activities in 2019-2020: Kyrgyz Republic, Ghana, Lesotho, and Sao Tome and Principe. Under KIX, BELDS capacity building activities are continuing in Kyrgyz Republic and Lesotho and also include Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Tajikistan.
  • Through BELDS, the ECE Accelerator toolkit was developed and launched.
  • Cross-country peer learning and exchanges promote best practices, lessons learned, and collaboration between countries.
  • Along with UNESCO, UNICEF, and the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-UNESCO), GPE developed an online course - Mainstreaming early childhood education into education sector planning. The course and corresponding materials offer an introduction to the concepts, processes and tools countries need to ensure that pre-primary education is successfully mainstreamed into their education planning cycle.

An independent evaluation of BELDS found it successful in equipping ministries with capacity, knowledge and resources to mainstream ECE and in raising the profile of early childhood education in sector plans and policies.

By first identifying capacity gaps in initial diagnostic workshops and then developing customized capacity building activities, BELDS allowed for flexibility to respond to country needs and opportunities.

Latest blogs and news

October 05, 2021
Uzbekistan: A brighter future starts with early learning
With support from GPE, the government of Uzbekistan is working to bring down the barriers that prevent access to quality early learning. Thanks to these efforts, more children are receiving early education and are...