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.



Standards and governance for quality early childhood education and care

Aspects of governance and standards are among the most commonly used regulations for improving early childhood education and care (ECEC) quality. This chapter provides an overview of the evidence linking structural mechanisms in standards and governance to staff-child interactions, by integrating the evidence for centres for children aged 3 to 5, and for children aged 0 to 2, including family daycare settings. Structural characteristics, such as ratio of children to staff, group sizes or physical location of the centre, affect the environment for staff and children, and thereby influence staff-child relationships established in ECEC settings and the support to children’s development. Other aspects of governance, such as funding and classroom composition are also likely to play a role. The evidence on the benefits of longer hours of provision in general and licensing in family daycare remains largely inconclusive.


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