Despite the proven and lifelong benefits, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has said that over 175 million children – nearly half of all pre-primary age children globally are not enrolled in pre-primary education.
In a recently released report titled A World Ready to Learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education, UNICEF noted that children from poor families are less likely to attend an early childhood education programme, while their counterparts from richer families are 7 times more likely to attend early childhood education programme.
“Failure to provide quality early childhood education limits children’s futures by denying them opportunities to reach full potential,” the report read in part. “It also limits the futures of countries, robbing them of the inequalities and promote peaceful, prosperous societies.”
UNICEF believed that children who enrolled in at least one year of pre-primary education are more likely to develop the critical skills they need to succeed in school and less likely to repeat grades r drop out.
While growing up, they tend to contribute immensely to peaceful societies and prosperous economics, UNICEF claims.
“As adults, they contribute to peaceful societies and prosperous economics. Evidence of the ways in which pre-primary education advances development exits the world”
It also declared that only 1 in 5 young children are enrolled in pre-primary education. Prioritising early childhood education is therefore important.
UNICEF argued that more than half of low and lower middle income countries are not on track to ensure at least one year of quality pre-primary education for every child by 2030, as set out by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
On the measures to be put in place by governments to ensure pre-primary education for all, UNICEF pointed out the factors which include scaling up investment, progressively growing the pre-primary system, while improving quality and ensuring vulnerable population are not the last to benefit.
In that respect, UNICEF expressed that pre-primary education provides the highest venture on investments of all education sub-sectors.
“Pre-primary education provides the highest return in investment of all education sub-sectors. Yet, it receives the smallest share of government expenditure compared to primary, secondary and tertiary education.
Meanwhile, efforts to scale up access to pre-primary education should not come at the expense of quality, it added.
UNICEF added that 9.3 million new teachers are needed to achieve universal pre-primary education.
“Only 50% of pre-primary teachers in low-income countries are trained; while 5% of pre-Primary teachers globally work in low-income countries.
To ensure no child is left behind, UNICEF advised the governments to adopt policies that commit to universal pre-primary education and prioritise the poorest and hardest to reach children at the start of the road to universality, not the end.