The early years in a child’s life, from prenatal stages through age 8, are the most important time for supporting holistic development and preparing the child for future success in life.
Despite many positive developments — including substantial scientific and economic evidence that supports investment in the early years, unprecedented global attention and increased access to early education services — governments are not investing enough in holistic early childhood programs and systems. In addition to a lack of adequate resources, the support and responsibility for early childhood development programs are typically fragmented across government ministries, as well as between the public and private sectors, making for a disjointed effort.
Delivering early childhood development programs at scale remains a challenge in many contexts, and the ability to recruit, retain and support a qualified early childhood workforce is critical to improving both the access to and quality of these services. Both international and domestic financing for early childhood development remain too low to reach all children with positive, nurturing experiences, such as parenting support, early health and nutrition services, child care and preschool. And often, the most disadvantaged are the least served. Policymakers, early childhood development program designers and those delivering services can each benefit from learning from others with similar experiences, and accessing practical tools and information to strengthen their models and increase the quality of their services.
Underscoring the need for systems-level change, our approach involves generating evidence to influence policy decisions, engaging stakeholders in collaborative learning and supporting local change agents with evidence, advice and connections. We use these principles across three key pillars:
- Early Childhood Workforce: R4D supports the early childhood workforce by leading the Early Childhood Workforce Initiative (ECWI) in partnership with the International Step by Step Association (ISSA). This global, multisectoral initiative aims to equip country decision-makers with the resources they need to support a quality early childhood workforce. Under ECWI, R4D leads the development of rigorous analytical work, which includes a series of landscape analyses that synthesize global evidence and experiences among members of the early childhood workforce across several themes.
- Early Childhood Financing: R4D’s work in early childhood development financing consists of generating evidence on how much funding is needed and exploring possible sources in order to increase and make more efficient the investments by countries and international actors. For example, we prepared a background paper for the Education Commission, which analyzed the state of current financing for ECD, identified the principal financial barriers to promoting access, quality and equity in delivering ECD programs, and offered potential solutions to increase and improve the effectiveness of financing.
- Early Childhood Development Programs: R4D supports early childhood development funders, policymakers and program managers by identifying what works and how to scale it, and encouraging peer-to-peer, networked learning:
- Identifying and connecting innovative models via the Center for Education Innovations (CEI).
- Equipping programs with relevant research, such as the Journeys to Scale report, and practical tools and examples of promising approaches through the Early Learning Toolkit.
- Collaborating closely with programs to improve the design and implementation of their models, and continually adapt them to improve their effectiveness. R4D has implemented a series of evaluation and learning activities for Read to Kids (R2K) in India, and is currently conducting an impact evaluation of a community-based parenting program in Serbia.
Photo © Hippocampus Learning Centres