UNESCO Members commit to invest at least 10 pc of education budget on early childhood education

At least one year of pre-primary education guaranteed by countries

Politics

November 21, 2022

/ By / Paris

UNESCO Members commit to invest at least 10 pc of education budget on early childhood education

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay addressing Conference on Early Childhood Care & Education

The importance of early education of children, notably the pre-primary or kindergarten, was underlined at a meeting of the Member States of UNESCO in Uzbek capital Tashkent. Countries have committed to spend at least 10 pc of their education budget on early education.

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At a global meeting on education, hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) the critical importance of early education, notably kindergarten and pre-primary, was highlighted by global educationists and the UNESCO member nations committed to spending at least 10 pc of their entire education spending on pre-primary education and to ensure that salaries and working conditions of pre-school personnel are at least at par with those of primary education teachers.

These were some of the outcomes of the UNESCO Conference on Early Childhood Care & Education that was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan last week. The participants also reaffirmed the commitment to guarantee at least one year of free pre-primary education, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 4.

Research in neurosciences and social sciences shows that 85 pc of brain development takes place in the first five years of life. In particular, the first three years of life is vital to awaken children’s potential. To call attention to this important phase of a child’s development and to renew commitments to early childhood care and education, over 2,500 participants from 147 countries gathered at the World Conference, including heads of states, ministers, educators and experts.

“Investing in early childhood is crucial to reduce social inequalities, which begin even before birth,” said the UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, during the opening ceremony. “For a long time, early childhood has been a blind spot in public policy. Increasing funding, both national and international, will make a difference for future generations,” Azoulay added.

According to a press statement issued by UNESCO, the conference’s final document, the Tashkent Declaration, adopted by countries on the last day of the conference, reaffirms the right of all children to pre-primary education and further calls for greater attention to environmental education to ensure that awareness of climate change and sustainable development starts in the early years.

“It is very urgent to solve the issue of quality education for young children at the global level and to develop joint solutions to these issues,” said Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Uzbekistan, in his opening speech. He urged that early childhood education be included as a main topic of the UN’s Summit for the Future in 2024.

A UNESCO report prepared for the conference showed that globally, participation in pre-primary education has grown significantly over the past 10 years, increasing from 46 pc in 2010 to 61 pc in 2020. However, participation rate is barely 20 pc in low-income countries, while budget allocation to pre-primary education in these countries stands at 2 pc of total education budgets. Today, 1 out of 4 young children under 5 never had any form for pre-primary education, which represents 33 million out of 134 million children of that age in the world.

One of the obstacles is the lack of qualified pre-primary teachers and caregivers. UNESCO estimates that another 9.3 million full-time educators are needed to make pre-primary education universal by 2030. Other challenges include policy fragmentation and lack of public provision.

The press statement adds that in 2023, UNESCO will work with its partners to define the first international standards for the professional certification of early childhood educators, like those that already exist for primary and secondary teachers. To keep the momentum of the Conference, it will also collaborate with partners, including UNICEF and the World Bank, to publish a global report on early childhood every two years, to inform public policies.

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