Early Childhood Education
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
Founded on 16 November 1945, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is a specialized United Nations agency that seeks “to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture to further universal respect” (UNESCO Constitution, article 1). Based in Paris, France, UNESCO is currently represented by 191 member states and has a global network of fifty-eight field offices and eleven institutes and centres.
The main emphasis of UNESCO’s activities in education is the global campaign on Education for All, which seeks to provide basic education for all children, youth, and adults so as to enable them to embark on a path of lifelong learning. The Education for All campaign serves as the cornerstone of UNESCO’s education programs by focusing on the expansion and diversification of the provision of basic education to reach the largest number of potential learners. Particular emphasis is given to the issues of quality and access, especially for marginalized and excluded individuals.
With regards to the field of early childhood care and education, UNESCO leads the international policy drive for an integrated early childhood care and education system that encompasses the holistic development of the child. UNESCO’s mission to support early childhood policy development is guided by two major international frameworks: the 1990 Jomtien Declaration on Education for All, which states that learning begins at birth and confirms early childhood care and education as an integral component of basic education; and the 2000 Dakar Framework for Action on Education for All. Special importance is placed on Goal One of the Dakar Framework for Action, which aims to expand and improve comprehensive early childhood care and education for all children.
With the aim of building a solid foundation for a child’s lifelong learning, the Early Childhood program of UNESCO, part of the Division of Basic Education, actively works with Member States in their efforts to develop and strengthen their national capacity to meet this target of the Dakar Framework. To this end, UNESCO publishes the Policy Briefs on Early Childhood and regularly undertakes policy review work in selected countries. To date, this policy review work has included the national early childhood policies of Indonesia, Kenya, Kazakhstan, and Brazil.
In terms of strategy for policy development in the early childhood field, UNESCO focuses on holistic pre-primary education for children who are three to five years of age and on their smooth transition to primary education. This approach fully encompasses all elements of children’s emotional, social, physical, and cognitive development, as well as their nutrition and health needs. To address the particular needs of children who are from ages zero to three, countries also are recommended to have a phased plan to be implemented jointly between the national education and social sectors. Through its active collaboration with government officials, UNESCO works toward the goal of expanding and improving early childhood care and education, as well as toward the international development goal of universal primary education. For more information on UNESCO’s activities in early childhood education, go to http://www.unesco.org/education/ecf. See also United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).