Education: young children

The barriers to make education universally available to all are many, especially in the arena of early childhood care and development and indigenous populations. There is often a lack of access to an education that respects the diverse cultures and languages of indigenous populations. Another obstacle is the uneven transition from pre-school initiatives to the primary school curriculum. Educators need a better understanding of children's diversity of experience and diverse cultural capital. This is important for young children because research findings show that the development of the brain occurs primarily in the early years of life. Childcare needs feature highly in the development and education of a child, and are affected by factors such as poor health and low literacy rates in the mothers. Efforts to address these issues include expansion of early childhood care and development activities, including family and community interventions especially for those at risk of experiencing marginalisation or exclusion.

We welcome your feedback: please send comments or suggested additions to

Selected resources

Books, reports, etc

A human rights-based approach to education for all : a framework for the realization of children's right to education and rights within education

September 2007

Expand view

This publication describes current thinking and practice that have informed the recent shift to a rights-based approach in the education sector. The report provides a framework for policy and programme development from school to international level. The focus is primarily the education rights of children

Bilingual education in Israel. Final report

November 2001

Expand view

Prospects would appear bleak for attempts to create common educational spaces for Jewish and Arab children, educators and parents in contemporary Israel. The two Jewish Arab schools in Jerusalem and Galilee were set up by the Centre for Jewish Arab Education in Israel (also known as Hand in Hand) in 1998 and have flourished in their modest way, although post-Oslo optimism has given way to heightened tension. This report is analytical and it illuminates the opportunities and challenges of such an endeavour

Challenges of change : a tracer study of San preschool children in Botswana

LE ROUX, Willemien
February 2002

Expand view

This study of the Bokamosa Preschool Programme describes how San children, whose culture is distinct from that of other peoples of Botswana, try to cope with an education system whose values and norms are different to their own. They must also cope with pressure from their parents who mistrust a system that 'steals' their children but feel powerless to make any changes. This book discusses the many factors that influence children as they grow; and shows that if the school system is not congruent with home circumstances, children must make immense efforts to succeed

Child labour, gender inequality and rural/urban disparities : how can Ethiopia’s national development strategies be revised to address negative spill-over impacts on child education and wellbeing?

et al

Expand view

This paper is based on a study which sought to understand the impact on child labour and child schooling of public policy interventions formulated within the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP), and how changes are mediated through gender and rural/urban differences

Childrearing in Hubai Village, China

December 1999

Expand view

This paper summarises the findings of research carried out by staff of the China National Institute for Educational Research, which runs the Foundation-supported Hebei preschool education project. The research looked into the childrearing practices of a small village in the province of Hebei in northern China. The project will use the research findings to tailor its future work to local conditions

Early childhood care and development

MYERS, Robert

Expand view

This report was prepared as a contribution to the Year 2000 Assessment Education for All. It is an assessment of global and national changes that have occurred in basic education since the World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990. The Jomtien declaration stated the 'Learning begins at birth', and one of the targets was expansion of early childhood care and development activities, including family and community interventions especially for poor, disadvantaged and disabled children. The report examines how far these targets have been met, focusing on countries in the South. The conclusion is that each country has its own challenges according to the social and cultural context, but general areas to focus on would be: training and supervision, evaluation and monitoring, and involving and supporting parents and families. In particular one of the findings was that there was a lack of attention to particular populations: low-income, rural, indigenous, girls, HIV/AIDS, children aged 0-3, pregnant and lactating mothers, working mothers and fathers

Early childhood care and education in E-9 countries : status and outlook.


Expand view

This report was prepared for the Fifth E-9 Ministerial meeting in Cairo in 2003. The E-9 countries of this report are: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan. International support for early childhood development and education is based on research findings that the development of the brain occurs primarily in the early years of life. Resources dedicated to this subject area bring multiple benefits to society and the community as well as to the child and his or her family. With respect to improving comprehensive early childhood care and education for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, it is this very target group who benefit more than children from favourable family backgrounds. Childcare needs feature highly in the development and education of a child, and are affected by factors such as poor health and low literacy rates in the mothers. Each of the countries have developed mechanisms for tackling early childhood development, and a high priority amonst each of these mechanims is to focus on equity (p.47), with children from disadvantaged backgrounds being primary target groups

Early childhood care and education in south east Asia : working for access, quality and inclusion in Thailand, the Philippines and Viet Nam


Expand view

This study was commissioned to examine current early childhood care and education programmes and policies in three countries in the Asia Pacific region: Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. Specifically the study attempts to achieve two objectives: firstly, to give an account of the extent to which a holistic view of child development has been translated into learner-centred curricula that includes health and nutritional needs of young children, and secondly, to address gender issues and the inclusion of children at risk of experiencing marginalisation or exclusion. This study is aimed at practitioners and policy makers to help work directly with young children who are at risk or are made vulnerable by difficult life conditions brought about by social, economic, political and cultural factors. It is the author's opinion that social and cultural diversity, gender sensitivity and equality and a committment to inclusion based on respect for and acceptance of human diversity can be addressed meaningfully through early childhood development programmes.

Early childhood transitions research : a review of concepts, theory, and practice

May 2008

Expand view

This review surveys major conceptual tools that shed light on different aspects of early childhood transitions. The objectives are: 1) to review major research perspectives on early childhood transitions; and 2) to identify significant trends (and gaps) in the knowledge base of scholarly as well as professional studies

Education choices in Ethiopia : what determines whether poor households send their children to school?

et al

Expand view

This paper attempts to establish a link between micro-level outcomes and macro-level policy initiatives with respect to eight-year-old children’s primary school enrolment in Ethiopia. The paper uses data from a 2002 survey of 1000 rural and urban households with eight-year-old children sampled from food insecure communities in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, SNNP and Addis Ababa Regional States

Education for all and children who are excluded


Expand view

This thematic study was produced in preparation for the World Education Forum on education for all held in Dakar in Senegal in 2000. The final product was published in 2001 following the Forum. Millions of children are excluded from education through poverty, disability, ethnic difference and gender issues. Two thirds of the 130 million million primary school age children not in school are girls. This report discusses education at all levels from early childhood development through to primary school and secondary school with respect to the most vulnerable groups: girls, children in war, indigenous children, children with disabilities and children with HIV/AIDS. It looks at lessons from good practice and debates the way forward for a more inclusive approach. It is aimed at policy makers and programme makers

From car park to children's park : a childcare centre in development

July 2003

Expand view

This working paper illustrates the "Situationsansatz" pedagogical framework, as implemented at Kita, a childcare centre in Berlin. The emphasis is on children's environments, children's participation and optimal learning. The key principles of the "Contextual Child Development Approach" include: recognising the learning potential of diverse cultural heritages and intercultural interaction, developing close relations with the social environment and adopting an open planning process, with the contribution of children, parents and other adults. Includes an appendix, which briefly outlines the guidelines for working with the Contextual Child Development Approach in childcare centres

From early child development to human development : investing in our children's future

YOUNG, Mary Eming

Expand view

This conference report addresses the benefits and challenges of investing in early childhood development. Programmes that invest in children's basic needs: health, nutrition, emotional and intellectual development help ensure children's progress in primary school, through secondary school and then into the workforce.This in turn can help break the cycle of poverty. It concludes that the effectiveness of ECD programmes should be continually evaluated, and a deliberately planned global coalition to fund ECD initiatives should be pursued. The publication includes essential resource information that includes descriptions and case studies of successful early childhood development programmes throughout the world. Written in an accessible style, it is aimed at policymakers and practitioners

In the web of cultural transition : a tracer study of children in Embu District, Kenya

KABIRU, Margaret
November 2001

Expand view

The study compares children who were taught by preschool teachers trained in the two-year course run by District Centres for Early Childhood Education (DICECE) with those who had untrained teachers. The study, carried out in Embu District (Kenya), found significant differences between the two groups of children particularly in terms of performance in primary schools, with children cared for by DICECE-trained teachers faring better, and in relation to absenteeism, repetition and dropout rates

New Partnerships for EFA : building on experience

DRAXLER, Alexandra

Expand view

Early in 2007, UNESCO and the World Education Forum launched a new programme, ‘Partnerships for Education’ (PfE). PfE aims to create a global coalition among multi-stakeholder partnerships for education (MSPEs) in order to advance toward the objectives of Education for All (EFA)

The two faces of education in ethnic conflict : towards a peacebuilding education for children

BUSH, Kenneth

Expand view

This document challenges a widely-held assumption that education is inevitably a force for good. While stressing the many stabilising aspects of good quality education, editors Kenneth Bush and Diana Saltarelli show how education can be manipulated to drive a wedge between people, rather than drawing them closer together. This Innocenti Insight outlines the negative and positive faces of education in situations of tension or violence, including the denial of education as a weapon of war (negative) and the cultivation of inclusive citizenship (positive). It emphasises the need for peacebuilding education. The publication is about children of all ages, but it also discusses the creation of ethnic identity from an early age (section 1), and gives examples of the destruction of primary schools as a weapon of war (p.11)

World declaration on education for all and framework for action to meet basic learning needs


Expand view

In 1990, delegates from 155 countries, as well as representatives from some 150 organisations agreed at the World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand (5-9 March 1990) to universalise primary education and massively reduce illiteracy before the end of the decade. This is the World Declaration on Education for All: Meeting Basic Learning Needs, arising from the conference. Amongst other things, it recalls that education is a human right for all and recognises that traditional knowledge and indigenous cultural heritage have a value and validity in their own right and a capacity to both define and promote development

Journal articles

Children at play : a childhood beyond the Confucian shadow

BAI, Limin

Expand view

This article presents a historical overview of Chinese attitudes to children's play activities. While Confucian and neo-Confucian scholars based their pedagogical teaching on an idealised image of childhood and showed a hostile attitude to play, games and toys, traditional China accepted children's right to play. Furthermore, a dualism between play activities and daily life activities was alien to Chinese traditional society, and games were rather understood as interwoven into daily life in many ways. This paper can be particularly useful to researchers and practitioners keen on exploring the cultural foundations of childhood and children's education in contemporary China

Critical thinking [whole issue]

June 2004

Expand view

Critical thinking is considered to be part of the holistic development of young children as it is a key ability for children to guide their way through dilemmas, decisions and choices they make in life. This issue includes a review of strategies and teaching methods, and a discussion of the extent to which the youngest children can be considered capable of critical thinking. Fostering critical thinking as an aim of education is then argued for, using the instruments that have been developed to support the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The concept of ‘Philosophy for Children’ is examined followed by an exploration of a programmed centred on philosophy for children in Iceland. A programme in the Andes in Argentina looks at the links between philosophy for children and resilience. The Insights From the Field section features the work of Mobile Creches Projects and of the links between critical thinking skills and HIV/AIDS in Mozambique


Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA)


Expand view

7-9 rue Eugène-Delacroix
75116 Paris

ADEA is a network of partners promoting the development of effective education policies based on African leadership and ownership. ADEA is a network of African Ministries of Education, Development Agencies, education specialists and researchers, and NGOs active in education. Its mission is to: promote dialogue and partnerships; develop consensus on policy issues facing education in Africa; reinforce African Ministries' capacities to develop, manage, and implement education policies; promote the sharing of experiences and successful strategies; and promote nationally-driven education policies, projects, and programs

Bokamoso Trust


Expand view

PO Box 925

The Bokamoso Trust is involved in an early childhood education training programme with a focus on conserving the culture and identity of the marginalised communities in West and North-West Botswana, particularly the San. The programme consists of three main sections: early childhood educators training; managerial and administrative support for village schools during field visits and training of parents and communities in early childhood care and education. The Bokamoso Trust is part of an affiliated group of eight NGOs working in Botswana and South Africa called the Kuru Family of Organisations. The common goal of the group is to empower the most vulnerable groups of indigenous peoples in Southern Africa

Early Childhood Development Virtual University (ECDVU)


Expand view

University of Victoria, School of Child and Youth Care
PO Box 1700 l-Hut Room 75
BC V8W 2Y2

ECDVU's mission is to further develop African Early Childhood Development (ECD) leadership capacity as a key strategy in support of child, family and community well-being and broader social and economic development. The ECDVU is an innovative and multi-faceted approach to addressing ECD leadership needs in Africa. It is a training and capacity building program for ECD, using face-to-face and distance learning methods. These include two to three-week seminars, web-based learning, video-conferencing, and a "community of learners" strategy within cohort countries. Unlike most academic programs, candidates for the ECDVU are not solely self-selected. Instead, the names of ECDVU candidates emerge from an in-country process that brings together an inter-sectoral ECD "committee" to identify significant early childhood goals for the country in the years ahead. In light of these goals, the committee members then select from among interested applicants three or four of the most suitable ECD leaders to be forwarded as their "national candidates" for participation in the ECDVU

Education for All|United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (EFA - UNESCO)


Expand view

7 Place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07 SP

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation programme 'Education for All' is a global campaign, born in 1990 at the World Conference on Education for all in Jomtien in Thailand. It has six goals, three of which are based around inclusive basic and primary education. These are (i) improve comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children (ii) ensuring all children have access to quality primary education by 2015, including girls and ethnic minorities, (iii) eliminating gender disparities in primary education by 2015. An evaluation undertaken in 1998 showed that these goals were only partially being met, with the worst performers in the South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa regions. A new conference took place in Dakar, Senegal to reinvigorate committment to the Education For All programme. In the 1990s education was recognised as a right, and the important role it plays in social and economic development gave new momentum to NGOs and and civil society working in this area. Against this background, there is renewed optimism in achieving the aims of this campaign

Education for Indigenous children|Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committtee (BRAC)


Expand view

75 Mohakhali
Dhaka 1212

The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) is a national Bangaldeshi development organisation, founded in 1972 to address the spiralling issues of poverty after the Liberation War. It has grown substantially since then, and core programmes focus on economic development, health, social development, human rights, legal services and education. It works at the grassroots level, but also aims to affect national policy on poverty reduction and social progress. The indigenous education project is part of the BRAC education programme. The two major target groups within this project are children with disabilities and children from ethnic minorities. The aims of the project are (i) to increase enrolment of indigenous children in mainstream education, (ii) to boost the self esteem of indigenous children, (iii) to create positive attitudes amongst mainstream communities towards indigenous people and (iv) use the indigenouse mother tongue as the language of instruction in primary education

Pacos Trust


Expand view

PO Box 511
89507 Penampang

The PACOS trust is a community-based organisation based in Sabah in Malaysia. It aims to improve the quality of life of the indigenous communities in the region through strengthening community organisations, strengthening indigenous knowledge systems and natural resource management, and improving early childhood care and development. The trust runs a variety of programmes, one being on community early childhood care and development. They run yearly training sessions for indigenous pre-school teachers on how to run a community pre-school. This programme also constantly re-evaluates the indigenous learning curriculum so that it is appropriate to the needs of the community

Training and Resources in Early Education (TREE)

South Africa

Expand view

PO Box 35173
Northway 4065

TREE is a nonprofit NGO that provides training, resources and support to caregivers, parents & communities engaged in Early Childhood Development (ECD), which is the holistic education, care and development of young children from birth to 7 years of age. TREE's aims are to promote and support quality, sustainable, holistic ECD for children in disadvantaged communities; to provide access for adults, who impact on the lives of young children, to quality training in early childhood education, care and development; and to provide access to a range of low-cost resources for ECD. It provides opportunities for women's empowerment, income generation and community development through partnership and cooperation with the Department of Education and other departments at the local, provincial and national levels, as well as other stakeholders, on health, education and welfare issues that affect the young child. It trains approximately 3000 women a year to implement quality ECD programmes in their communities, throughout KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape. This training improves the educational potential of approximately 80 000 young children annually, many from remote, impoverished rural areas.
TREE has received funding as part of the Community REACH program to investigate new roles for ECD practitioners in supporting orphans and vulnerable children in KwaZulu-Natal province. TREE will use qualitative and quantitative research methods (focus groups and key informants)_ to assess community perceptions of how OVC can best be supported and nurtured. A manual will be produced in Zulu to assist ECD practitioners to identify, care for and support OVCs

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


Expand view

7 Place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07 SP

1 rue Miollis,
75732 Paris Cedex 15

Created in 1945 in order to build networks between nations to enable solidarity by:

  • Mobilizing for education: so that every child, boy or girl, has access to quality education as a fundamental human right and as a prerequisite for human development. 
  • Building intercultural understanding: through protection of heritage and support for cultural diversity. UNESCO created the idea of World Heritage to protect sites of outstanding universal value. 
  • Pursuing scientific cooperation: such as early warning systems for tsunamis or trans-boundary water management agreements, to strengthen ties between nations and societies. 
  • Protecting freedom of expression: an essential condition for democracy, development and human dignity.

Today, UNESCO believe that it has to create holistic policies that are capable of addressing the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainable development.

Working Group on Early Childhood Development|Association for the Development of Education in Africa


Expand view

Royal Netherlands Embassy
PO Box 1163

The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is a partnership between African ministers of education and their international partners. It provides a platform for exchange and dialogue on issues that affect the development of education in Africa. Much of ADEA’s work is carried out through a number of working groups formed round these issues. The Working group on Early Childhood Development (WGECD) was set up in 1996 with the aim of encouraging and supporting national governments in Africa to commit to and invest in ECD. The WGECD organised the conference on early childhood development in Accra in Ghana in 2005, entitled ' to advance the development of early childhood in Africa'. The main goals were to (i) ensure effective caring practices within the family and the community, (ii) ensure access to quality basic services and (iii) ensure a supportive policy environment