copy the linklink copied!Executive summary

The OECD Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS Starting Strong) asks early childhood education and care (ECEC) staff and leaders in nine participating countries (Chile, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway, and Turkey) about their characteristics, the practices they use with children, their beliefs about children’s development and their views on the profession and on the ECEC sector. This first volume of findings from TALIS Starting Strong, Providing Quality Early Childhood Education and Care, examines these multiple factors that are known to determine quality and thereby influence children’s learning, development and well-being.

copy the linklink copied!What the data tell us

Interactions between children, staff and parents/guardians in early childhood education and care centres

  • Around 70% of staff report regular use of practices facilitating children’s socio-emotional development (such as encouraging children to help each other) or practices facilitating children’s language development (such as singing songs or rhymes). Specific practices emphasising literacy and numeracy (such as playing with letters or playing number games) are used to a lesser extent.

  • Related to this, the ability to co-operate easily with others is at the top of the list of skills and abilities that ECEC staff regard as important for young children to develop.

  • Exchanging information with parents regarding daily activities and children’s development is common. Smaller percentages of staff report encouraging parents to play and carry out learning activities at home with their children.

  • In pre-primary education centres, the average size of the target group (defined as the first group of children staff were working with on the last working day before the day of the Survey) varies from 15 children to more than 20. Staff working with larger groups report using more behavioural support practices (such as asking children to quieten down).

Teachers, assistants and leaders in early childhood education and care

  • Staff in the ECEC field have typically completed education beyond secondary school, with Japan, Korea and Turkey having the highest rates of ECEC staff with post-secondary education. Training specifically to work with children is not universal, ranging from 64% of staff in Iceland to 97% of staff in Germany. Staff with more education and training and more responsibility report that they adapt their practices in the classroom or playroom to individual children’s development and interests.

  • In all countries, a majority of staff (more than 75%) report having participated in professional development activities within the 12 months prior to the Survey, with particularly strong rates of participation in Korea and Norway. However, staff who are less educated tend to participate less in professional development activities.

  • Staff in all countries report feeling more valued by the children they serve and their parents or guardians than by society in general. Satisfaction with salaries is low. Even so, staff report high levels of overall job satisfaction. In several countries, staff who feel that ECEC staff are more valued by society report more use of practices in the classroom or playroom adapted to individual children’s development and interests.

  • Lack of resources and having too many children in the classroom or playroom are major sources of work-related stress among ECEC staff. For centre leaders, a primary source of work-related stress is having too much administrative work associated with their job. Leaders also report that inadequate resources for the centre and staff shortages are the main barriers to effectiveness.

Early childhood education and care centres and structural features of quality environments

  • ECEC centres are generally characterised as stand-alone buildings. In several countries, co-location with a primary school is associated with more frequent meetings and communication with primary school staff and transition-related activities for parents and guardians.

  • There is little indication that ECEC centres with larger shares of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes benefit from enhanced structural conditions and services (e.g. higher staff qualifications or a more favourable number of staff per child).

  • More than a third of centres in Germany, Iceland and Norway have 11% or more children whose first language differs from the language(s) used in the centre, while this is rare in Japan and Korea. In Chile, Germany and Iceland, staff in pre-primary centres with more children who have a different first language also report greater use of activities related to children’s diversity.

Governance, funding and the quality of early childhood education and care

  • In participating countries, more than 90% of centres receive government funds. Parents are also involved in the funding of ECEC centres, with more than 60% of centres receiving funds from parents in all countries surveyed except Chile and Iceland.

  • Staff across countries and levels of education concur that reducing group size, improving staff salaries and receiving support for children with special needs are important spending priorities. Having opportunities for high-quality professional development also appears as a top priority for staff, particularly in centres for children under age 3.

  • The share of privately managed centres varies from 10% in Israel to 70% in Germany. Privately managed centres benefit from more autonomy in the management of budget and human resources. Publicly managed centres are more likely to be located in more rural areas than privately managed centres in almost all countries surveyed.

  • Monitoring activities tend to focus more frequently on assessing the facilities and financial situation of centres than on the quality of interactions between staff and children (i.e. process quality). More than 20% of leaders in Germany and Japan report that their centres have never been evaluated on process quality.

copy the linklink copied!What TALIS Starting Strong implies for policies

The findings presented in this report suggest four major objectives for policies to ensure high quality ECEC:

  1. 1. Promoting practices that foster children’s learning, development and well-being: This points to pre-service and in-service education and training programmes that can support staff in their use of relevant practices, well designed curriculum frameworks, and flexible organisation of activities that ensure interactions of staff with small groups of children.

  2. 2. Attracting and retaining a high-quality workforce: This points to policies that can raise the status of the profession through adequate salaries, reduced sources of instability and stress, and access to relevant and flexible professional development opportunities.

  3. 3. Giving a strong start to all children: This points to policies that ensure access to high quality ECEC for children facing greater barriers, prepare staff to adapt their practices to the needs of children with different characteristics, and allocate resources to provide additional support where required.

  4. 4. Ensuring smart spending in view of complex governance and service provision: This points to policies to identify and agree on the spending priorities, develop assessment and monitoring frameworks that support quality, and empower ECEC centre leaders.

Policies to raise the quality of ECEC face a number of trade-offs in terms of the areas to invest in and the areas to spend less on. TALIS Starting Strong sheds light on what could be priorities for each country. This report also suggests flexible and co-ordinated approaches that can be less costly and easier to implement than radical changes.

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Executive summary