copy the linklink copied!Foreword

It is not always easy for policy makers to make decisions in education that are focused on the future, on what our children need from education. It is easier to rely on what worked in the past, at least for some children, than to continuously question and try to understand how children are really faring. Yet making decisions in the absence of robust evidence is risky.

Many countries have increased their focus on early childhood education and care, with an expectation that children’s outcomes would be subsequently improved in school and beyond. Participation rates in early childhood education have increased, greater attention is being given to early years’ curricula and pedagogy, and more early childhood educators have advanced qualifications than ever before. The benefits for children, however, are not always apparent. At the same time, the international evidence countries can draw on to inform their policy approaches for children’s early learning is sparse.

The three countries that participated in the International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study - England (United Kingdom), Estonia and the United States - wished to better understand how well five-year-old children in their country were faring, in relation to children in other countries. These countries wished to create a common basis for countries to learn from each other on how to improve children’s early learning and well-being. They also wished to have a means to benchmark their progress over time.

The study investigated how well five-year-old children were developing across the range of early skills they need to succeed in education and grow up into happy, healthy and responsible citizens. These skills include both early cognitive development and social-emotional development. Children without this balance of skills will struggle to do well in school and in other areas of their lives. The study includes a direct assessment of children’s development and skills, enabling children to show us how they are really doing.

The study highlights early differences between children, such as between boys and girls and between children from advantaged and disadvantaged families. This helps us to see how we can better support children and their families, both in the earliest years and in the first years of schooling. Education systems that orient their priorities from an institutional lens to children’s actual needs will have greater success overall and will be better able to achieve improved equity.

Children love to learn and supportive, caring environments help them to do so. Our job is to ensure we are providing such environments.


Andreas Schleicher

Director for the Directorate for Education and Skills

Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary General

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