Holistic Early Childhood Development Index
Early childhood is an important period in life that sets trajectories in the development of a child’s health, education and wellbeing. Research shows that quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) has multiple benefits for individual children, their families and society as a whole. At the 2000 World Education Forum, the international community recognized ECCE as the foundation for lifelong learning, and made expansion and improvement of ECCE the first goal of Education for All. Participation in ECCE programmes has increased worldwide in the past decade, but progress remains insufficient and uneven. One key obstacle that prevents countries from making more rapid progress in ECCE is their difficulty in understanding the status of young children in a holistic manner. Most commonly collected data are limited to health outcomes for children ages 0-3 and pre-primary and primary education indicators for older children. Some composite child well-being indices may include additional ECCE related indicators – such as the state of home environments and pregnant women’s access to prenatal health care – but often these findings are only available for a limited group of countries. In this context, the development of the Holistic Early Childhood Development Index (HECDI) was first proposed at the World Conference on ECCE organized by UNESCO in September 2010 in cooperation with the Russian Federation. An action agenda, adopted at this conference, called upon UNESCO “to convene a working group to explore the development of an instrument capable of tracking progress toward EFA goal 1, with particular attention to quality and the holistic aspects of ECCE”. The purposes of HECDI include (1) providing a valuable and useful set of indicators for countries to use in improving early childhood development, (2) building towards a holistic, globally-comparable measurement of early childhood development; and (3) providing advocacy materials that will help describe the present status of early childhood development worldwide. UNESCO is currently working with a wider range of partners to develop the HECDI, including the Save the Children, UNICEF and the World Bank.