Access and equity
The 1990 Jomtien Declaration for Education for All stated that learning begins at birth. A decade later, the 2000 Dakar Framework for Action reaffirmed the importance of early childhood by including the development of early childhood care and education as the first of its six main goals.
Participating countries committed themselves to “expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.” Governments were particularly urged to expand equitable access to quality early childhood services underscoring the importance of instituting policy in favour of the poor.
Countries often promote alternative services for poor children with limited or no access to mainstream early childhood services which can be cost-effective and pedagogically innovative, but often raise concerns about sustainability and quality. In cases where the government has limited resources, a pro-poor policy can redistribute resources by reducing state support for the more privileged.
Central governments must ensure an equitable distribution of resources among different populations and especially those who live in the most disadvantaged regions. This approach aims to expand access without creating serious regional inequities. However, where there is universal provision for a certain age group while the overall enrolment in other age groups is low, this policy can create inequity.
Privileged children of the target age group benefit from state investment, while poor children of non-target ages receive scant government attention. A policy of universalisation with targeting can minimise inequity where governments aim for universal access among the target age group, but simultaneously prioritise the poor.