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Early Childhood

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Early Childhood Development refers to the transitional processes of young children, aged 0-8 years involving cognitive, physical, language, motor, social and emotional development. These transitional processes are noted to be supported by social and financial policy frameworks and the integration of nutrition, education, child protection, water and sanitation hygiene services[1]. Early childhood provides an opportunity to shape the trajectory of a child’s holistic development and provides a pillar for their future. To achieve their full potential, children need adequate health care and nutrition, safeguarding and opportunities for early learning, and responsive caregiving which includes practices like singing and playing with loved ones. All of these are important in the nourishment of their developing brains and in stimulation of physical development and emotional stability[2].

It is becoming noticeable that ECD now faces a significant challenge on a global scale. There is an observed social and economic turbulence in both the developed and developing worlds and this is a potential threat to global peace and security, which exceedingly affects children. It is reported that over 29 million children were born into conflict-hit environments in 2018 and about 43% of children below 5 years have an apparent risk to their growth and development in low and middle-income countries[3]. Quality is also another observed challenge in pre-primary education systems in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) due to inadequate teacher to pupil ratio. It is reported that 4% of the world’s pre-primary teachers lived in developing countries as at 2016 and yet such countries house 17% of the world’s preprimary aged children. The teacher to pupil ratio is even worse in the humanitarian contexts, which further diminishes the quality of education. Another major challenge is funding support for ECD with donor funding cuts due to limited prioritization. It is noted that 16 of the 25 largest donors to education had either allocated nothing or reduced their funding for pre-primary education from the period of inception of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to 2018[4]. All these challenges have a consequential effect on the quality of early child hood development and educational stakeholders need to adapt and scale up policies and practices to promote social justice for children at all levels and to challenge social attitudes and injustices for reform in a modernist and post-modernist context.  Parents also need to understand their responsibility and to promote child rights and principles of no-harm[5].

The sustainable development goals particularly goal 4 provides an opportunity to reflect and address global challenges facing early childhood development

This is included under Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” It is specifically mentioned in target 4.2: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.” Additionally, the various policies and frameworks at global level such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) also provide an opportunity through which we can address this largely neglected area.


Science shows that life is a story for which the beginning sets the tone. That makes the early years of childhood a time of great opportunity, but also great risk

As part of the Nurturing care framework and WHO guidelines, the following recommendations are key in the improvement of early childhood development: 

  • All infants and children need responsive care within the first 3 years of life. Parents and other caregivers need to be supported to provide it.
  • All infants and children require early learning activities with their loved ones during the first 3 years of life.
  • Integrate interventions targeting responsive care and early learning with those for optimal nutrition of infants and young children.
  • Integrate psychosocial interventions for mothers with early childhood health and development services.

  • Carry out research and evaluation of Early Childhood Development programmes.
  • Build capacity of local and international organizations in ECD principles and practices
  • Development of ECD policy, advocacy and communication materials
  • Development of ECD toolkits

  1. Eric Wilkinson, John. “Contemporary Challenges for Education in Early Childhood.” In Education in Childhood, edited by Olga María Alegre De La Rosa, Luis Miguel Villar Angulo, and Carla Giambrone. IntechOpen, 2021.
  2. Maysa, Jalbout, and Bullard Katy. “Ensuring Quality Early Childhood Education for Refugee Children: A New Approach to Teacher Professional Development,” n.d.
  3. “Early Childhood Development | UNICEF.” Accessed February 3, 2024.
  4. “Early Childhood Development in Conflict-Affected Countries Is Key to Life-Long Health, Wellbeing and Prosperity, Says WHO and Partners,” 2018.
  5. “Nurturing Care for Early Childhood Development.,” 2017.

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