Global push for quality early childhood education

published 22 November 2022 updated 25 November 2022

An active delegation of Education International (EI) and member organisations' representatives participated in the UNESCO World Conference on Early Childhood and Care Education (ECCE), where it underlined the need to “reaffirm the right of every young child to quality care and education from birth” and urged governments to renew their commitment to and investment in the Sustainable Development Goal Target 4.2.

Education starts early

From 14-16 November in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, representatives of several member states of UNESCO, experts from all over the world and representatives from civil society organisations attended the conference to exchange experiences, discuss strategies and make commitments on the four main conference themes: Inclusion, quality and well-being; ECCE workforce and caregivers; Programme innovations; and Policy, governance and finance.

Although its delegation was small, with five delegates onsite – including the Union of Education Norway (UEN), the Alliance of Concerned Teachers-the Philippines (ACT-Philippines), and the Zambia National Union of Teachers (ZNUT) –, EI had a strong presence at the conference with multiple engagements. Several union representatives also followed the conference online.

Supporting ECE public sector and personnel

The delegation joined other civil society actors on 13 November at the pre-Conference Civil Society Forum, to share best practices and propose solutions for the challenges facing the early childhood education (ECE) sector.

On 14 November, an EI/International Labour Organization (ILO)/UNESCO parallel event brought together relevant stakeholders and decision-makers to explore the role of the professionalisation of ECE personnel in advancing the achievement of the SDG 4 target 4.2. In addition to a presentation on the global status of the ECCE profession and the current challenges facing ECCE providers today, two panels focused on the importance of standards, certification and the recognition of prior learning in order to ensure quality services among all ECCE stakeholders and institutions.

Addressing participants to this parallel event, UEN Senior Advisor Nicolai Stensig said: “What our teachers are fighting for in Norway is not so different from the experiences of ECE teachers and education support service personnel around the world. We know that quality and inclusive ECE early childhood education is a public good and fundamental human right, and that ECE teachers in state and non-state institutions deserve decent working conditions and to be treated as the professionals they are.”

An EI hosted event, titled “Early Childhood Educators: Raising the Status of the Profession”, was well-attended on 15 November. It highlighted the experiences of the ECE workforce, what progress has been made in improving working and professional conditions of work for the sector, and the challenges posed by privatisation, shrinking autonomy, and precarious workings conditions, all of which influence the status of the profession and offer solutions for developing a quality and sustainable ECE workforce.

Taking the floor, ACT’s Nancy Calado noted that ,“to improve the working condition of ECE teachers, they need to receive a salary that would not only make both ends meet, but something that they can be proud of. A salary that they can live decently. Most, if not all, ECE teachers are living from paycheck to paycheck and giving them the salary, they deserve would make them work productively without being emotionally and mentally stressed.”

The ECE Deputy Director of ZNUT, Emma Phiri Benkele, was also adamant that “we can transform ECE with women in this sector. We know that having women leaders in position of influence generates broader societal impact. There is also an influence on pay equity and changing workplace policies in ways that benefit both men and women.”

Need to implement the ILO Policy Guidelines on the promotion of decent work for ECE personnel

Another event was hosted on that day in partnership with ILO to discuss and exchange experiences on the promotion of decent ECCE personnel working conditions and the recognition of the profession. The importance of the ILO Policy Guidelines on the promotion of decent work for early childhood education personnel was fundamental to the session.

To mark the 10-year anniversary of these Guidelines next year, EI is organising activities to celebrate the importance of this invaluable tool to promote decent work for ECE personnel globally. EI affiliates are invited to participate in these activities here.

Five-point policy plan for ECE

Dennis Sinyolo, EI’s African Regional Director, later took the floor in the high-level session “ECCE workforce and caregivers”, where he strengthened the importance of developing a five-point policy plan that promotes the professionalisation of teachers in the ECCE sector, ensures resources to teach effectively, increases salaries for ECCE personnel, and assure governments’ commitment to invest in ECCE and educators.

Tashkent Declaration and Commitments for Action

EI also held observer status on the drafting committee of the Tashkent Declaration and Commitments for Action, which was the main achievement of the WCECCE. With strong language on the importance of gender equality, social dialogue, regulation of nonstate actors, and government investment in the provision of ECE, the Declaration is a strong first step transforming ECE.

The Tashkent Declaration is available here in English, with further translations forthcoming from UNESCO.