Engaging Young Children

Lessons from Research about Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care

image of Engaging Young Children

The first years of life lay the foundations for a child’s future development and learning. Many countries have increased their financial support for provision of early childhood education and care (ECEC) over the past years. More recently, the focus of debate has been shifting from expanding access to affordable ECEC to enhancing its quality.  A growing body of research suggests that the magnitude of the benefits for children will depend on the level of quality of early childhood services, with especially strong evidence in the case of disadvantaged children.

In light of budgetary constraints, policy makers require the latest knowledge base of the quality dimensions that are most important for ensuring children's development and early learning. However, current research is often narrow in focus or limited to programme-level or national-level conclusions. This book expands the knowledge base on this topic. It draws lessons from a cross-national literature review and meta-analysis of the relationship between early childhood education and care structure (e.g. child-staff ratios, staff training and qualifications), process quality (i.e. the quality of staff-child interactions and developmental activities), and links to child development and learning.

This report concludes with key insights, as well as avenues for further research. It was co-funded by the European Union.



Overview: Promoting quality early childhood education and care, child development and learning

Research shows that quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) affects children’s development and learning. There is consensus that process quality, such as the quality of staff-child interactions and developmental activities, is the primary driver of gains in children’s development through ECEC. This report builds on a cross-national literature review examining the relations between structural indicators, such as child-staff ratios, and process quality in settings for children aged 3 to 5, aged 0 to 2, including family daycare settings. It also provides insights from a new meta-analysis of the linkages between quality and child learning and development. This overview chapter describes how ECEC provision has expanded and emphasises the importance of better understanding and defining ECEC quality. It highlights key findings and explains their linkages to policy levers such as standards and governance; workforce development and working conditions; data and monitoring.


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