Education International (EI) is one of the largest Global Union Federations (GUF), representing nearly 30 million teachers and education workers worldwide. Its 402 member organisations operate in 173 countries and territories, from pre-school to university. The organisation protects the rights of every teacher and education worker, and every student they educate.
Global March is proud of its long association with EI, a founding member organisation and Governing Board member, which reinforces the powerful link between child labour and access to good quality public education for all children, underpinned by adequate numbers of properly trained teachers and education workers who must benefit from decent working conditions. Global March and EI also sit together on the Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education.
Global March is pleased to announce that the EI Early Childhood Education (ECE) Task Force has recently released a global study investigating ECE policies, systems, programmes and activities across the world. The study, entitled “Early Childhood Education: A Global Scenario”, is a result of research conducted in 2009 and reveals that ECE continues to receive more attention across the globe and that access has been increasing steadily. However, the study also reveals that progress has been uneven and a lot more remains to be done if this important Education For All (EFA) goal is to be achieved by 2015.
The main findings of the study include some of the following key points:
- Many ECE systems are characterised by multiple providers and funders, some of which are government, private, community, faith-based and non-governmental organisations.
- The ECE sector remains predominantly privatised, particularly for younger children (usually the 0-3 year age group).
- Access to ECE services remains lower in developing countries, particularly for the 0-3 year age group, poor and rural children, children with special needs and other vulnerable groups.
- There is a general shortage of professionally trained and qualified ECE staff in many countries.
- Men are seriously underrepresented in ECE, with more than 90 per cent of the teaching staff being women.
- The conditions of service for ECE teaching staff tend to be inferior to those of counterparts in other education sectors.
- The quality of ECE services is higher in urban areas and lower in rural areas, partly due to the uneven allocation or availability of resources, including qualified teaching staff.
Given the impact of the global economic crisis on development and education funding in all countries, there is a concern that vital education services, such as ECE, could be eroded by governments seeking to slash public sector costs and reduce public debt. And yet, these services are essential to increasing individual, social and economic benefits. As stated in the EI report, “… early childhood programmes complement the roles of parents and other carers in raising children during the early years. The early childhood years set the foundation for life, ensuring that children have positive experiences and that their needs for health, stimulation and support are met, and that they learn to interact with their surroundings.”
“Furthermore, early childhood education programmes result in easier transition to primary school, better completion rates, reduced poverty and social equality ... Children from poor families, immigrant children and children from other vulnerable groups may particularly benefit from
ECE’s equalising factor before compulsory schooling … The OECD … further argues that early childhood education enables women to participate in the labour market, thereby contributing to economic growth.” However, beyond the potential economic impact, the EI study points out that there is a need for governments to provide “… comprehensive services for children, that take the needs and the rights of children into account.”
Welcoming publication of the report, Global March Chairperson Kailash Satyarthi emphasised the positive impact of ECE on the incidence of child labour. “The report highlights the significant impact that early childhood programmes can have on the lives of poor and vulnerable children, increasing their future education opportunities and therefore reducing the likelihood that they will end up in situations of child labour.”
“Our member organisations, led by EI, have called on the G20 members to recognise the crucial importance of education in national development frameworks and to protect education services from public sector cutbacks. We cannot allow the progress that has been made in working towards the EFA goals to be halted or even reversed in anyway whatsoever, otherwise we run the risk of condemning an entire generation of vulnerable children to a future of poverty and marginalisation and increasing the incidence of child labour.”
To download the study Early Childhood Education: A Global Scenario, please click here.
For more information and resource materials on EI’s work in this field, click here.
For more information and resource materials on UNESCO’s work in this field, click here.