Framework for Action - Participants -Organizers
Online coverage - NGO Consultation
Latest news - Follow-up to the Dakar Forum
The opinion of EFA partners - Grassroots stories
The EFA 2000 Assessment - The findings
The regional meetings - Evaluation
Press releases - Press kit
Photo corner - Media contacts
The findings > Thematic Studies> ECCD>Part 3
  Country EFA reports
  Regional Frameworks for Action
III. Tendencies: The Changing Status of Children and of ECCD Enrolments
From a reading of country reports prepared for the EFA Year 2000 Assessment and from the survey of knowledgeable people, many criteria emerged that might be applied to defining "advances" in the ECCD field during the 1990s. Although, a priori, one might expect the main standard for improvement to be set in terms of the well-being (or development level or learning abilities) of children, most the of advances described refer to changes in programme coverage or to conditions that set the stage for increases in the availability and quality of ECCD programmes or to actual changes in programming that, eventually, should bring improvements in the well-being of children. In this section changes in children and in enrolments will be examined; changes in conditions affecting programming and in programmes will be taken up in the next section.
A. Changes in the Development and Learning of Children
Health and Nutritional Status. In many countries, important improvements have occurred in the health status and the nutritional state of children. Recognising the importance of good health and nutrition for learning, some country reports made reference to these improvements. Many, however, concentrated only on educational improvements, leaving health and nutrition aside.
Over the last ten years, major advances have been made world-wide in reducing infant and child mortality (see statistics provided yearly by UNICEF in the State of the World's Children). The effect of immunisation programmes on infant mortality has been widely documented and the general tendency is clear.
The same clarity and general advance is not as evident for nutritional status and for the results of feeding components offered as a part of ECCD programmes. Relatively high levels of under nourishment and of vitamin deficiencies continue in many parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Moreover, feeding programmes have not always lived up to expectation. For instance, two relatively recent evaluations carried out in Latin America found that there was little or no improvement in the nutritional status of participants in ECCD programmes despite a relatively high cost of feeding children in the programmes (OrtÝz, et. al., 1992, Colombia; and Coa, 1996, Bolivia). The nutritional status of rural children in Mexico has not changed in more than 20 years (COMEXANI 1998). These results are logical if one considers that feeding programmes do not necessarily change basic feeding habits at home, that they often do not provide food on weekends, that parents may reduce food provided to children at home because they are getting food (presumably supplementary) elsewhere, and that diarrhoea linked to poor sanitary conditions continues to offset potential gains due to food supplementation. On the other hand, micro-nutrient supplementation programmes seem to have had important positive effects. And, intensive nutritional programmes in Argentina and Chile seem to have had good results in reducing malnutrition. Taken together, these results suggest that broad approaches need to be promoted if health and nutrition components of ECCD programmes are to be effective in improving the well-being of young children; simple supplementary feeding programmes are not sufficient.
Although not present in papers from countries outside Africa, it is important to note the dramatic setback in general well-being related to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, particularly for Africa. For instance, it is reported that Malawi, with a total population of about 11 million people, can expect to have 850,000 cases of children with HIV/AIDS in the year 2000 (Republic of Malawi, 1998).
Psycho-social Development and Learning. Unfortunately, very few countries provide us with measures of the psycho-social well-being of young children or of their advances in learning during their early years. It is impossible, therefore, to judge advances in this area for national populations or to link advances to the many programme initiatives that have been undertaken. There are, however, exceptions at the level of particular pro-grammes for which indicators have been created and evaluations carried out. Unfortunate-ly, such information rarely appears in the country reports. Improvements are occasionally inferred from changes in subsequent school performance and retention (see for instance the Vietnam country evaluation), but these are at best indirect measures of a child's general development or psycho-social well-being. Various reviews of the literature suggest that there are indeed long-term effects (e.g., Myers, 1995; Karoly 1998; Barnett and Boocock, 1998; Kaul, 1999). These reviews bring together results of specific studies of specific programmes and do not report results of systematic monitoring of national changes in children's development and learning during the early years. This remains a major challenge to which we will return in the concluding section.

Looking at specific studies and at the few cases where there has been some agreement on an indicator of psycho-social development and consistent measurement has occurred over time (Chile, for instance), we find that:

1. Programmes of reasonable quality do have important positive effects on early development, often with longer term affects.

2. The effects can favour rural children who are at a social disadvantage.

3. An important improvement in the nutritional status of children does not automatically bring about a hoped-for improvement in various dimensions of psycho-social development.

4. Language development seems to be an area in where there is a consistent lag in development related to socio-economic conditions as well as to mother tongue differences.

Changes in enrolment
The two indicators that were suggested by the EFA Forum for use in the country reports presenting results of the Year 2000 Assessment are both quantitative indicators of access or enrolment. These are: a) the percentage of the age group enrolled, and b) the percentage of new entrants to primary school who have had some early education. We will concentrate the analysis on the first indicator, the gross enrolment ratio (GER) because this information was available in a wider range of countries. Information about GERs extracted from the country reports available to the author are presented in Table 1, organised by region.
Cautions: Before looking at what the figures in Table 1 tell us, several cautions are in order:

First, Direct comparisons of enrolment levels and percentages among countries should not be made because there are significant differences in:

the definition of the age group that is considered as part of ECCD and for whom data is presented;

the baseline year and the year for which the latest enrolment data are presented;

the definition of what constitutes an early childhood program .

the days and hours that programs are in session differ widely from country to country .

the degree to which centres providing early childhood attention are allowed to operate outside the official system, in an irregular manner, and therefore outside the official statistics, creating an underestimate of enrolment.

the reliability of the figures.


(In spite of the above differences, it is possible to identify some trends and some obvious differences across regions and countries, taking into account at least the first two of the differences mentioned above.)

Second, when looking at increases in enrolment it is important to take into account the baseline from which the increases are being made.

Third, in a significant number of country reports, the requested data were not presented, sometimes because the enrolment statistics were lacking or because census or other population data for the relevant age group was lacking. The number of new entrants with early education was not presented for many countries because this information is not normally collected. This led to some innovative ways of estimating the percentage.

Fourth, and often overlooked: enrolment data tend to be collected at the outset of each year and are based on registrations rather than actual participation in a program. Such information does not take into account cases of children who never arrive even though they are registered nor changes that occur during the year, including cases of children who decide not to continue after a few days or weeks. The stability of the enrolment of children in programmes varies from country to country.

Fifth, gross enrolment ratios (GER) are used. This does not make much of a difference for most countries because the incidence of children who are over or under the age range for which percentages are calculated is minimal. However, in other cases ECCD programmes include a significant proportion of children outside the age range chosen (e.g., Brazil, where more than 90 percent of the more than a million children enrolled in a pre-school literacy programme were 6 years of age or older and about 40% were 7 or older).

Table 1.-- Gross enrolment ratios for programs of early childhood care and education/development, circa 1990 and 1998.(not available)
Sixth, in some reports, the age range was not made clear. In others, there were inconsistencies in the data presented at different points of the report (usually minor, but nevertheless inconsistencies).
Taking these cautions into account, what can be said about overall enrolment in ECCD programs during the period?
1. The general tendency has been for enrolments to increase since 1990.
With the major exception of countries that were previously part of, or heavily influenced by the Soviet Union and that are shifting away from a socialist orientation, the general tendency has been for enrolments to increase over the period. In Latin America and South and East Asia, all of the countries reporting data for two periods showed an increase, with the exception of Afghanistan. In the Caribbean, 9 of 10 countries showed increases (or remained steady at over 100%) with the exception being Grenada. The Cook Islands in the Pacific showed a decrease, but all others in the region increased their enrolments. A summary from the Spanish, Portuguese and French speaking countries in Africa notes a marginal increase for the region over the period (from 0.7% to 3.6%) and specifically mentions a decrease only in Togo. The Commission on ECCE from the African regional meeting at Johannesburg reported that "enrolment has grown and access, although small, has improved"; there is no indication, however of cases in which there may have been a decrease. These summaries contrast somewhat with data from specific countries where enrolments seem to be much higher than the average (see Table 1) and where Kenya shows a very slight decrease over the period.
As can be seen from the appropriate section of Table 1, decreases in enrolments were found in all the Central Asian countries which were former members of the Soviet Union and for which data were available. These decreases are a product of the break up of the former Soviet Union, of economic difficulties associated with independence and the shift to a market-based economic system, sometimes accompanied by civil war or territorial battles with neighbours, and of a decentralisation process within the countries. With these changes, the centrally-supported, extensive and expensive system of relatively high quality early childhood provision broke down. This breakdown was particularly significant for rural areas where attention had been provided through rural co-operatives. Looking behind these data, there appears to be a tendency for enrolments to begin to recover slightly over the last year or more of the period, related to somewhat greater stability and to financial assistance from abroad, and to the emergence of a range of new alternatives.
2. Although there are a few cases of large, and even rather dramatic, growth during the period, enrolment increases can more generally be characterised as small and marginal.
Although increases seem to be most significant in Latin America and in East Asia it is hard to generalise; increases seem to be more related to the conditions of particular countries than to regions. The most dramatic increase appears in the Caribbean where statistics for the tiny Turks and Caicos Islands show a jump from 0 coverage at the beginning of the decade to a current enrolment of 99%. Cuba shows a major increase over the period from 29 to 98 percent, a result of having introduced (and having included in their statistics) a massive parental education programme. Honduras, Nicaragua and Paraguay show significant advances but begin from a relatively low baseline. The same is true of the Philippines. China, Thailand and Vietnam show important enrolment increases over the period.
In most cases, however, change has been modest, slogging along at one or two percent per year. This slow pace is not necessarily bad from a programmatic viewpoint because, in theory, it allows time for needed human resources to be put in place and for adjustment when new programmes are introduced. Forcing a rapid pace can be particularly difficult and even inefficient if the human resources are not available to deal with the new situation. Moreover, real participation by communities in the creation and growth of early childhood programmes is difficult if a fast pace of growth is desired. It is likely, however, that the slower pace of increase in enrolments represents a kind of inertia and a failure to give priority to ECCD in often difficult economic conditions. And, continued low enrolments mean that many children are deprived of an experience that could help them to realise better their potential and perhaps even help to lift them out of poverty.
The African report from Johannesburg states that "Ten years after Jomtien, despite efforts of some governments, very little progress has been made to achieve the set goals."
A rough conclusion that can be drawn from the above is that a great deal of work is still needed if ECCD programmes are to have a significant effect, nationally, on the lives of children, families and countries.
3. The variation in enrolment rates is huge, ranging from almost zero to more than 100% across countries.
From Table 1, the variation by region and within regions is obvious. Countries are at very different moments in the process of developing and implementing programmes. This fact, when added to the obvious cultural and economic differences among countries reinforces the idea that formulas should be avoided.
4. Attention to ECCD continues to be very much focused on "pre-schooling" and is concentrated on the age just prior to entry into primary school
This pre-primary age may be as young as age 4 (because kindergarten is considered part of the primary school system and the enrolment of age 5 is virtually 100, a situation found in various Caribbean countries), or as "old" as age 6.
That most countries have made their major advances in enrolment in the year immediately preceding entrance into primary school can be shown by looking at the countries in Table 1 that report data only for age 5 or 5-6, and/or which break down enrolment figures by each age from birth to primary school entrance (e.g., Chile and Japan). These cases all indicate a strong bias toward "pre-school" education as the main strain of ECCD. In Latin America, at least 6 countries (Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay) can point to enrolment figures over 80% for the year prior to entry into primary school.
Very few countries provided a detailed breakdown of enrolments for each age from 0 to 5 or 6. Exceptions are Chile and Japan which present the following:
The general point is reinforced when one takes into account that various countries include in their statistics special programmes designed specifically to prepare children for primary schooling (summer courses or, as in the case of Brazil, a "literacy" programme). The data on new entrants to primary school with some ECCD experience (which will not be analysed in this paper) also reinforces the conclusion.
A corollary of the above follows:
5. Coverage is very low in institutionalised ECCD programmes for children under 2 (and even for children under 4) years of age.
In most of the world, the tradition of mothers or other family members caring for very young children at home on a full time basis continues to be the norm. Accordingly, parental support and education programmes that will help parents to do a better job of helping their young children not only survive and grow but also develop to their full potential are extraordinarily important. This fact, together with the hope that many people can be reached at a relatively low cost, has led to a spate of "parenting education" programmes during the decade. These are often mentioned in country reports but are usually not included in statistics.
Although countries in the Minority World (Kahn and Kamerman 1994) and in Eastern Europe (Evans, et. al, 1996) and Central Asia are likely to provide families with non-institutionalised supports (maternity and paternity work leaves, sick leaves, child payments, housing subsidies), this type of support for families with young children is seldom found in the Majority World where responsibility for the first years falls squarely, and even exclusively in some places, on family and community. Sweden reports a relatively high proportion of children aged 1 to 2 in childcare centres.
6. Urban children are more likely to be enrolled in some sort of ECCD programme than rural children.
In their reports, many countries disaggregated enrolment figures into urban and rural coverage. Sometimes these figures compared the GER for urban areas with the GER for rural areas. In these cases, it seemed clear that urban children were favoured (see the case of Indonesia in Table 1). In other cases, however, the enrolment figure was simply divided into two parts, showing that a certain percent of the total enrolment was in urban areas and the rest in rural areas. For instance, the summary report for Spanish, Portuguese and French speaking countries in Africa indicates that "more than 80% of the facilities are situated in urban zones..." (p. 7) What we do not know in these cases is the percentage of the total population that is urban (or rural) in order to calculate the relative coverage of the population group in each.
In a number of countries there is a suggestion that rural enrolments have grown more than urban enrolments during the period but nevertheless continue to lag. The bias toward urban areas is probably greater for day care programmes which are usually linked to urban work situations, but this information is not available in reports.
7. Children from families that are better off economically and socially are more likely to be enrolled than children from families with few resources and/or that are part of groups discriminated against socially.
This bias is related to, but is not congruent with, the urban-rural differences noted above. In the country papers, almost no attempt was made to present hard data showing how enrolment is related to economic or social status. The main exception is Chile which presented information derived from household surveys. The Chilean data, presented in Table 2, show the direct relationship between enrolment and income. Note that the enrolment in 1996 was more than twice as high for children from families in the upper fifth of the income distribution as it was for children from families in the lowest fifth. (It is likely that the differences would have been much more dramatic if the upper and lower ranges were defined as deciles instead of quintiles.)
Table 2. Early Education Coverage by Income Level in Chile: 1990 and 1996 (not available)
The data also show that increases over the six-year period for those in the lowest fifth lagged behind increases for those in the upper fifth, increasing the inequity of coverage during the period. Presenting information of this sort requires a certain degree of political maturity and a critical stance.
The above is suggestive but obviously cannot be taken as the basis for a generalisation. The relationship between coverage and income will vary from country to country, but, despite recent efforts to "target" programmes at lower income groups (see, for instance Fujimoto, p. 106 for Latin America), the relationship probably holds for most countries.
Very little information could be found in the country reports on enrolment distinguished by cultural or ethnic groupings. However, there was evidence of special programmes for ethnic minorities in many of the reports, suggesting that these groups lag behind in attention within ECCD programmes.
8. In most countries, there is virtual parity between boys and girls, but there are exceptions to this generalisation in which girls lag.
Nepal, Pakistan, India, the Maldives and Iran are cases in point. Several of the countries in the Middle Eastern and North African area also show lower enrolments for girls but there is evidence that the gap is narrowing slowly. Gender inequality tends to be magnified in rural areas.
9. The role of the state, private sector institutions and communities varies widely from region to region and country to country.
In socialist countries (including former members of the USSR, Laos, Cuba, and Sweden among others) responsibility for education in general has been a major responsibility of the State, including education and care during the pre-school years. Accordingly, important efforts were made prior to the 1990s to develop state-funded systems of comprehensive care and early education. During the 1990s, however, the role of the state changed dramatically in many of these countries. With new-found independence and a shift toward a market economy.
The socialist stance contrasts markedly with that of the United States and the United Kingdom where ECCD has developed along mixed private and governmental lines, but with a heavy bias toward private and community provision regulated through the market.
In Africa, with some exceptions, governments have paid little attention to ECCD which has been viewed as the responsibility of families and communities. Non-governmental organisations (that are statistically labelled as "private" but might better be considered part of a "social" sector) have played an important role in the region.
In Latin America, the percentage of enrolments accounted for by non-governmental programmes runs between 10 and 15% for most countries. In the Caribbean, heavy emphasis is placed on private and community programmes.
In South East Asia, Indonesia reports 19% (1996) and Thailand reports 24% (98) of their enrolments administered by organisations that are not part of the government
Additional comments on this theme are offered later in the paper.
Return to contents
[ Discussion Forum | Contact | Site map | Search this site | top ]