Early Childhood Education

World Organisation for Early Childhood Education (OMEP)


The World Organisation for Early Childhood Education (OMEP) (known in French as the Organisation Mondiale pour l’Education Prescolaire and in Spanish as the Organizacion Mundial para la Educacion Preescolar) is an international nongovernmental and nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests and overall well-being of children in all parts of the world, regardless of race, sex, religion, national or social origin. Known by the acronym OMEP in all languages, it was founded as a result of concerns about young children in the post-World War II era. Lady Marjory Allen from Great Britain learned that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), newly formed to take over the UN’s cooperation activities concerning education, science and culture, did not intend to include the preschool age in its field of activity. Lady Allen had the idea that a new international organization was needed to press UNESCO to address the preschool-age group. She connected with Alva Myrdal of Sweden, and after several international meetings with representatives from many nations, OMEP was established at the 1948 meeting in Prague. Alva Myrdal served as the first Chairman with Lady Allen as Vice-Chairman. The organization was highly influential on the activities of UNESCO in its early years.

By the fiftieth anniversary of its founding, OMEP had over sixty member nations from all over the globe. The official languages of the Organisation remain English, French and Spanish, although other languages may be used. The stated Aims and Objectives of the organization include: to defend and promote the rights of the child, with special emphasis on the child’s right of education and care worldwide; to encourage the training of personnel for early childhood education and care; and to collect and disseminate information and to facilitate the understanding of the needs of young children worldwide.

All OMEP members belong through National Committees. National Committees gain full membership after a period as a Preparatory Committee and are required to present an annual report of their activities and pay an annual membership fee. Individual memberships are only for those who are forming a Preparatory Committee in a nation when none exists. Members may be professionals from any discipline with an interest in the well-being of children and their families.

The decision-making body is the World Assembly, composed of the Executive Committee and the Presidents of National Committees. The World Assembly is held once a year, rotating to different nations around the world. The Executive Committee is the administrative body and meets twice a year. Regional or National Committee meetings and conferences may also be held. The OMEP journal, The International Journal of Early Childhood (IJEC), is published twice a year.

During the years of OMEP’s existence, progress has been made on behalf of children in such areas as education, nutrition, and jurisprudence; many more nongovernmental organizations are entirely or primarily devoted to children’s issues. OMEP retains its close ties with UNESCO and the UNICEF and remains an international network of professionals interested in all the world’s children as guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Further Readings: Goutard, Madeleine (1998). OMEP 1948-1998: Serving children’s needs for 50 years. Quebec: OMEP Secretariat. OMEP Constitution (2004). Revised at World Assembly, Melbourne, Australia, July 2004. Available online at http://omep.vrserver2.cl/. Roberts, Margaret, ed. (1988). OMEP: The first ten years 19481958. Herts, UK: OMEP Publications Committee and UNESCO.

Leah Adams