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.



Supporting quality early childhood education and care through workforce development and working conditions

Workforce training and working conditions matter for quality early childhood education and care (ECEC), across age groups and in both centre-based and family daycare settings. In turn, higher process quality is associated with higher levels of child development. This chapter provides an overview on associations between workforce-related characteristics and quality. Research shows relations between staff pre-service and in-service qualifications and training programmes, staff-child interactions and the promotion of young children’s development. Staff working conditions, such as staff salaries and well-being, as well as organisational climate, can play a key role in determining staff-child interactions. A few studies also find that in family daycare, staff networking is associated with higher-quality interactions. However, staff years of experience do not appear to predict quality levels. Staff-child interactions and implementation of developmental and educational activities are linked to higher levels of children’s emerging literacy and numeracy skills, as well as better behavioural and social skills.


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