Early childhood

Early childhood education refers to education from birth until the start of formal primary education, and takes place in formal, non-formal and informal settings. It typically focuses on child survival, development and learning, including health, nutrition and hygiene. The early childhood period is often divided into the following age ranges: birth to three years, and three years to six, seven or eight years, when formal schooling starts.

Early childhood education is critical. There can be many barriers to early childhood education for children with disabilities and these issues can often be compounded by other risk factors, such as poor health and low literacy rate of parents. Efforts to address these issues include the expansion of inclusive early childhood care and development activities, including family and community interventions especially for those most at risk of experiencing marginalisation or exclusion. This is supported by article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

This keylist features resources that support inclusive early childhood education. We welcome your feedback: please send comments or suggested additions to sourceassistant@hi-uk.org.

Selected resources

A human rights-based approach to education for all : a framework for the realization of children's right to education and rights within education

September 2007

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This publication describes current thinking and practice that have informed the recent shift to a rights-based approach in the education sector. The report provides a framework for policy and programme development from school to international level. The focus is primarily the education rights of children

Early childhood care and development

MYERS, Robert

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This report was prepared as a contribution to the Year 2000 Assessment Education for All. It is an assessment of global and national changes that have occurred in basic education since the World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990. The Jomtien declaration stated the 'Learning begins at birth', and one of the targets was expansion of early childhood care and development activities, including family and community interventions especially for poor, disadvantaged and disabled children. The report examines how far these targets have been met, focusing on countries in the South. The conclusion is that each country has its own challenges according to the social and cultural context, but general areas to focus on would be: training and supervision, evaluation and monitoring, and involving and supporting parents and families. In particular one of the findings was that there was a lack of attention to particular populations: low-income, rural, indigenous, girls, HIV/AIDS, children aged 0-3, pregnant and lactating mothers, working mothers and fathers

Early childhood care and education in south east Asia : working for access, quality and inclusion in Thailand, the Philippines and Viet Nam


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This study was commissioned to examine current early childhood care and education programmes and policies in three countries in the Asia Pacific region: Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. Specifically the study attempts to achieve two objectives: firstly, to give an account of the extent to which a holistic view of child development has been translated into learner-centred curricula that includes health and nutritional needs of young children, and secondly, to address gender issues and the inclusion of children at risk of experiencing marginalisation or exclusion. This study is aimed at practitioners and policy makers to help work directly with young children who are at risk or are made vulnerable by difficult life conditions brought about by social, economic, political and cultural factors. It is the author's opinion that social and cultural diversity, gender sensitivity and equality and a committment to inclusion based on respect for and acceptance of human diversity can be addressed meaningfully through early childhood development programmes.

Early childhood development and disability : a discussion paper


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"This discussion paper provides a brief overview of issues pertaining to early childhood development (ECD) and disability. It lays the foundation for a long-term strategic and collaborative process aimed at improving the developmental outcomes, participation and protection of young children with disabilities. Essential to this effort is dialogue between United Nations agencies and relevant stakeholders to identify sustainable strategies which build on existing efforts, and expand on multisectoral approaches to guarantee the rights of young children with disabilities and their families"

Early childhood transitions research : a review of concepts, theory, and practice

May 2008

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This review surveys major conceptual tools that shed light on different aspects of early childhood transitions. The objectives are: 1) to review major research perspectives on early childhood transitions; and 2) to identify significant trends (and gaps) in the knowledge base of scholarly as well as professional studies

Early years children promote health : case studies on child-to-child and early childhood development


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This is a collection of case studies of child-to-child health promotion activities and experiences. The focus is on early years children, who have been shown to be capable of peer-to-peer support. Through their involvement in health and development, children are able to contribute to the development of their communities, learning skills and shaping their personalities. The case studies included describe the experiences of children involved in education, HIV/AIDS and Memory Work, and contributing to the creation of resource centres in emergency settings and learning centres for community development

Education for all and children who are excluded


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This thematic study was produced in preparation for the World Education Forum on education for all held in Dakar in Senegal in 2000. The final product was published in 2001 following the Forum. Millions of children are excluded from education through poverty, disability, ethnic difference and gender issues. Two thirds of the 130 million million primary school age children not in school are girls. This report discusses education at all levels from early childhood development through to primary school and secondary school with respect to the most vulnerable groups: girls, children in war, indigenous children, children with disabilities and children with HIV/AIDS. It looks at lessons from good practice and debates the way forward for a more inclusive approach. It is aimed at policy makers and programme makers

From early child development to human development : investing in our children's future

YOUNG, Mary Eming

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This conference report addresses the benefits and challenges of investing in early childhood development. Programmes that invest in children's basic needs: health, nutrition, emotional and intellectual development help ensure children's progress in primary school, through secondary school and then into the workforce.This in turn can help break the cycle of poverty. It concludes that the effectiveness of ECD programmes should be continually evaluated, and a deliberately planned global coalition to fund ECD initiatives should be pursued. The publication includes essential resource information that includes descriptions and case studies of successful early childhood development programmes throughout the world. Written in an accessible style, it is aimed at policymakers and practitioners

Index for inclusion : developing play, learning and participation in early years and childcare


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"The Index is a detailed set of materials to help settings increase the participation of young children in play and learning. The Index involves a self-review of all aspects of a setting, drawing on additional help as needed. It encourages the involvement in inclusive development of all practitioners, volunteers, management committee/governors, children, young people and their parents/carers. Actions to assist inclusion are prioritised and a development plan is drawn up, implemented and reviewed using the Index materials. These changes are sustained in the setting as the process progresses annually"
A CD Rom and an Index for Inclusion insert for early years and childcare are available when the resource is purchased from the publisher

Monitoring the status of health equity in Bangladesh : the BHEW survey 2002

AHMED, Masud Syed
et al

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BHEW (Bangladesh Health Equity Watch) is a Bangaldeshi initiative established to determine whether the health situation in the country is improving and if those improvements are equitable. This report produced by BRAC gives an account of its current findings. Equity in health is defined as 'the absence of systematic and potentially redemiable differences in one or more aspects of health across populations or population subgroups defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically'. For example, while child mortality in Bangladesh has decreased, it is not known whether the decline has been equal for all groups within the population, such as the difficult areas to reach usually inhabited by ethnic minorities. In addition to child mortality, the report also focuses on nutritional status of the population including young children, and utilisation and accessiblity of the health care services. The report finds that the health of the disadvantaged groups has not much improved since independence. The information given is targeted at policy makers and programme implementers

Working towards inclusive practice training : a resource to support the delivery of training in Gypsy/Roma and traveler culture for early years settings

MCGEE, Fiona

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"This resource is intended as a practical toolkit for those involved in delivering training in Gypsy/Roma and Traveller culture for early years settings...This pack provides both training exercises and play and learning activities. By offering both, practitioners not only have the opportunity to participate in training to increase their understanding of the Gypsy/Roma and Traveller community; but also have access to a range of culturally reflective and inclusive activities, which they can then use in their settings"

Inclusive ECCD : a fair start for all children

EVANS, Judith L

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"The basic thesis we will explore in this article is that quality ECCD programmes provide a model that can be used for the development of inclusive programmes for children of all ages. It is particularly important that these programmes be developed for children from birth onwards, as many of the biological and environmental conditions that result in children having special needs can be ameliorated through early attention. In our discussion on inclusive ECCD programmes, we offer a brief description of the history of attention to those who are differently-abled for the purposes of understanding how we have arrived at the concept of inclusion. Then we define principles of programming for inclusive ECCD programmes, and we identify some of the issues related to creating inclusive early childhood programmes, and, finally, we determine what we need to be working toward"
The Coordinators' Notebook, No 22

Bernard Van Leer Foundation


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The Bernard van Leer Foundation is an international grant making foundation with the mission to improve opportunities for children up to age 8 who are growing up in socially and economically difficult circumstances. The foundation primarily works to support programmes that are implemented by local partners by focusing upon strengthening the care environment, successful transitions from home to school, and social inclusion and respect for diversity. Their website highlights information about the foundation, their programmes and grants, and the countries where they work. It also features links to related publications, a newsroom and a blog