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Advancing SDG 4.2: UNESCO advocates for early childhood care and education in upcoming world conference hosted by the Republic of Uzbekistan

Advancing SDG 4.2: UNESCO advocates for early childhood care and education in upcoming world conference hosted by the Republic of Uzbekistan

The upcoming ‘2nd World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education (WCECCE)’, which follows upon the first World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education, of 2010, in Moscow, will be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, from 14 to 16 November 2022, on the overarching theme, ‘Education Starts Early’. 

The 1st World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education (WCECCE) was attended by ministers and vice-ministers from 67 countries; participants from over 100 UNESCO Member States; representatives affiliated with the United Nations and others from outside agencies; civil society representatives; and additional experts. Emerging from the Conference was the ‘Moscow Framework for Action and Cooperation: Harnessing the Wealth of Nations’ (hereafter ‘Moscow Framework’), which called upon all governments to mobilize a stronger commitment to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE); to reinforce effective ECCE program delivery; to harness resources for ECCE; and to encourage mutual Member State’s cooperation and exchange.

This year’s iteration of the ECCE Conference series is particularly timely. UNESCO’s current Global Education Monitoring Report 2021/2 demonstrates that in the school year ending in 2019, 75 per cent of children globally were enrolled in pre-primary education one year before the official primary entry age. However, some three years later, significant gaps remain between Asia-Pacific regions. For example, the adjusted net enrolment rate (one year before the official primary entry age by sex) in South-Eastern Asia (Female: 94.6%, Male: 90.6%) was notably higher in 2019 than the world average (Female: 72.8%, Male: 73.1%). By contrast, figures emerging from Western Asia (Female: 48.1%, Male: 48.3%) and Central Asia (Female: 57.9%, Male: 57.8%); and Oceania (Female: 72.1%, Male: 72.6%, excluding Australia and New Zealand) show that enrolment is still significantly lagging behind. 

children drawing in a class

Despite a host of ECCE efforts and progress made in recent years, the situation of ECCE has recently fallen behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic. UNESCO (2021) recently reported that the pandemic has led to a reduction of education budgets by two-thirds in low- and middle-income Member States. The Asia-Pacific region has hardly been exempt from this impact; indeed, 70 per cent of ECCE centers across the region were shuttered during the height of the pandemic. Among these, many may never reopen. Consequently, children across the region have not been able to continue their pre-primary education, and now some may have no school to return to (UNESCO 2021).

Since the launch of the Moscow Framework in 2010, various statements and declarations relating to ECCE at the global level have been developed, including the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 4.2, which stipulates widespread access to quality early childhood development programmes, as well as care and pre-primary education for preparing children for their subsequent education. Starting with this global goal, the Moscow Framework has served to accelerate and increase numerous programmes relating to ECCE.

Turning to the Asia-Pacific region, increased and enhanced commitments have been developing since 2016, most notable among them the Putrajaya Declaration (2016), Pacifica Call to Action on ECD (2017), and the Kathmandu Statement of Action on ECCE (2018). Most recently, the Bangkok Statement 2022 reaffirms regional commitments by education ministers and other education stakeholders to an effective learning recovery for all, as well as to the transformation of education and its systems throughout Asia and the Pacific. The Bangkok Statement suggests that transforming education requires a holistic, life-cycle approach to learning and skilling from early childhood care and education all the way through higher and adult education. The Statement emphasizes the importance of building strong foundations at an early age and recognizes the importance of making further investments in the ECCE sector.

In the upcoming 2nd WCECCE of mid-November, the three principle goals will be to 1) collectively and collaboratively develop ambitious, relevant, and culturally appropriate policies; 2) to put in place effective and accountable systems, and multi-stakeholder partnerships and services; and 3) to increase and improve investment in this area as an essential and integral part of countries’ strategies for attaining lifelong learning societies and sustainable development.

The Conference will serve as a forum for participants’ sharing of their experiences, their proven programs, and their promising innovations in the area of ECCE, with the expectation that this platform will provide opportunities to mobilize even greater ambition, commitment, and increased investment in SDG Target 4.2 from all regional Member States. 

One of the highly anticipated outcomes of the 2nd WCECCE is the adoption of the tentatively named ‘Tashkent Framework for Action’, which will provide concrete and feasible strategies, priorities, partnerships, and benchmarks for financing, as well as outline actions and results required to achieve SDG Target 4.2 and additional early-childhood-related SDG targets. It is anticipated that the ‘Tashkent Framework’ will prove to be another essential ECCE milestone, not only in its furthering the eventual achievement of SDG Target 4.2 of the 2030 Education Agenda, but also for re-imagining educational futures, which includes ECCE in a compact fostering greater global solidarity.

Selected References

UNESCO (2021). ‘The future of 800 million children across Asia at risk as their education has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic’; https://bangkok.unesco.org/content/future-800-million-children-across-asia-risk-their-education-has-been-severely-affected (accessed 26 July 2022).

UNESCO (2021). ‘Global Partnership Strategy for Early Childhood: 2021-2030;

UNESCO (2021). ‘The impact of COVID-19 on early childhood education in the Asia-Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa: Insights from the results of rapid regional personnel surveys’. UNESCO Bangkok and Dakar; https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000378125