UNICEF’s first-ever global report dedicated to early childhood education highlights a lack of investment in pre-primary education by the majority of governments worldwide
As a new report issued by UNICEF today warns that more than 175 million children – around half of pre-primary-age children globally – are not enrolled in pre-primary education, missing a critical investment opportunity and suffering deep inequalities from the start, progress in pre-primary education in Azerbaijan is more positive.
“In the last three years, there has been a remarkable rise in the number of 5-year olds enrolled in school readiness programmes in Azerbaijan – from 15 per cent in 2015 to 75 per cent last year,” said Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Representative to Azerbaijan. “And in the last two years, a new early learning initiative aimed at 3 and 4-year olds has now reached some 3,000 children in 100 community-based centres around the country.”
As part of efforts led by the Ministry of Education with the support of UNICEF, new curricula and teaching materials have been developed to cater for the pre-school age group, and teachers trained in new methodologies that promote more child-focused learning.
UNICEF’s new global report, A World Ready to Learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education reveals that children enrolled in at least one year of pre-primary education are more likely to develop the critical skills they need to succeed in school, less likely to repeat grades or drop out of school, and therefore be more able to contribute to peaceful and prosperous societies and economies when they reach adulthood.
Children in pre-primary education are more than twice as likely to be on track in early literacy and numeracy skills than children missing out on early learning. In countries where more children attend pre-primary programmes, significantly more children complete primary school and attain minimum competencies in both reading and math by the time they finish primary school.
Globally, the report notes that household wealth, mothers’ education level and geographical location are among the key determinants for pre-primary attendance. However, poverty is the single largest determining factor.
“When children obtain a quality pre-primary education – where they can play, imagine, create, socialise and gain the foundations of learning – they are more likely to develop skills that can help them succeed in school, complete primary education and transition to higher levels, transform into productive citizens and thus ensure they are better able to contribute to peaceful and prosperous societies and economies when they reach adulthood,” said Carwardine.
In 2017 an average of 6.6 per cent of domestic education budgets globally were dedicated to pre-primary education, with nearly 40 per cent of countries from which data are available allocating less than 2 per cent of their education budgets to this sub-sector. In Azerbaijan, in contrast, 10 per cent of the education budget is allocated to pre-primary education.
“Azerbaijan is seeking a competitive workforce for tomorrow’s economy, and so every investment in human capital – from the earliest age – is essential to reach that goal,” said Carwardine. “If we are to give our children the best chance in life to succeed in a globalized economy, leaders must continue to prioritize, and properly resource, pre-primary education.”
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