copy the linklink copied!1. Policy implications of the 2018 Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey

The report on the results of the 2018 Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS Starting Strong) focuses on the quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC) environments. This first volume examines multiple factors that can affect children’s learning, development and well-being, from those that are close to children’s everyday lives to those that are more distant. This chapter provides an overview of the main findings presented in this volume and then discusses policy implications that countries can consider to raise the quality of ECEC environments.

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

The OECD Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS Starting Strong) is the first international survey that focuses on the workforce in early childhood education and care (ECEC). The workforce plays a fundamental role in ensuring the quality of ECEC provision. Survey responses from ECEC staff offer timely and meaningful information, providing insight into quality within ECEC settings, particularly process quality. Process quality in ECEC refers to the quality of interactions, how staff engage with children and with parents and how children interact with one another. Without strong process quality, ECEC falls short of supporting children’s early learning, development and well-being, which are foundational for them to become lifelong learners (OECD, 2018[1]).

Early childhood is a time of rapid brain development, when young children are learning constantly through their experiences and interactions. High-quality ECEC can provide a stepping stone for children to progress through their educational journey equipped with skills that will allow them to succeed, both in further education and in life. Poor-quality ECEC provision can seriously affect children’s social and emotional development and can also be detrimental to their overall well-being at an age when they are highly vulnerable. In settings with strong quality, investments made in providing ECEC lead to robust returns both for individuals throughout their life course and for economies and societies as a whole. Furthermore, with availability of high quality ECEC services, parents can decide to return to or join the workforce. This can, in turn, ensure that children from different backgrounds will participate in ECEC and help reduce inequalities between children.

TALIS Starting Strong was designed to approximate quality through questions to staff and leaders of ECEC centres on major elements that, according to research, influence children’s learning, development and well-being (Sim et al., 2019[2]). The goals of TALIS Starting Strong and of this publication are to:

  • explore the characteristics of the ECEC workforce and ECEC settings

  • investigate the factors that can support quality

  • compare early childhood settings and staff practices within and across countries to identify policy strategies to improve ECEC provision for all children.

TALIS Starting Strong offers an opportunity to learn about the characteristics of the ECEC workforce, the practices they use with children, their beliefs about children’s development and their views on the profession and on the ECEC sector, in terms of process quality. Analyses in this publication relate to the use of practices that are known through research to influence children’s learning, development and well-being and to the factors that are expected to influence those practices (as informed by the workforce). TALIS Starting Strong data complement and extend existing international data on structural characteristics of ECEC and countries’ policies in this area (OECD, 2017[3]).

This publication includes results from staff (those who work regularly in a pedagogical way with children) and leaders (those with the most responsibility for administrative, managerial and/or pedagogical leadership at the centre level) in pre-primary settings (ISCED level 02) in nine countries (Chile, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway and Turkey). It also features results from staff and leaders in centres providing ECEC to children under age 3 in four countries (Denmark, Germany, Israel and Norway).

After this introductory chapter setting out the main findings and policy implications, the report starts with what is closest to children’s daily experiences. Chapter 2 explains how the quality of the interactions between staff and children are captured through the Survey. The following chapters further investigate such factors and progressively move on to factors that are less closely tied to children’s daily life: the workforce (Chapter 3); characteristics of ECEC centres (Chapter 4); and governance and funding (Chapter 5). Each chapter gives information on two main aspects: 1) the workforce and the ECEC sector; and 2) the determinants of quality. Annex A provides a concise overview of the ECEC system in each of the participating countries. Figure 1.1 summarises the framework used to understand the quality of ECEC and the structure of this publication.

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Figure 1.1. Framework for the analysis of the quality of ECEC environments in TALIS Starting Strong
Figure 1.1. Framework for the analysis of the quality of ECEC environments in TALIS Starting Strong

copy the linklink copied!Children in early childhood education and care centres

Through the questions put to the ECEC workforce in TALIS Starting Strong and other sources of information, this publication gives an indirect picture of children in ECEC. The Survey does not measure children’s learning, development and well-being, but it provides rich information on the settings where children spend their time outside of the home and family and offers new insights on the perspectives of staff working with children in these settings.

How many children participate in ECEC?

Among countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong, close to 100% of children are enrolled at age 5, with the exception of Turkey, where 73% of children were enrolled in 2017 (Figure 1.2). On average across OECD countries in 2017, around one-third of children under age 3 were enrolled in ECEC. There are large differences in these rates across the countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong, with a very small share of the youngest children being enrolled in Turkey and a large share, compared to the OECD average, in Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Korea, and Norway (OECD, 2019[4]).

Which other children do they meet at their centres?

The size of centres (in terms of the number of children) and thus the number of peers children encounter in ECEC varies greatly both across and within countries. Large centres with 80 or more children are most common in Japan and Iceland. In Norway, for both pre-primary centres and centres for children under age 3, the average size is closer to 40 children. In Israel, the average size of pre-primary centres is around 30 children. Within countries, the size of centres varies a lot in Korea and Turkey, with many smaller centres.

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Figure 1.2. Enrolment in early childhood education and care, 2017
Figure 1.2. Enrolment in early childhood education and care, 2017

Source: OECD (2019[4]), Education at a Glance 2019: OECD Indicators, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010128

In terms of age, children in countries with an integrated system of ECEC (where ECEC for children aged around 0-5 is governed by the same authority and regulatory framework) are more likely to be in contact with a large age range of children. This is the case in Chile, Denmark, Germany and Norway, where the same authority is in charge of most pre-primary education centres and also centres serving children under age 3. In Japan and Korea, although ECEC is split in terms of governance, ECEC centres also serve a large age range of children.

In terms of children’s socio-economic background, the composition of centres varies quite a lot across countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong. In pre-primary centres, the percentage of centres that report having 11% or more children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes varies from 4% in Japan to 65% in Chile. In centres for children under age 3, the percentage of centres with a high share of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes varies from 11% in Norway to more than 20% in Germany and Israel. In Germany, Iceland and Norway, at least two in five leaders report that there are 11% or more children in their centre whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre.

To learn about the background of other children a child may be directly exposed to, the Survey asks staff about the composition of the first group of children they were working with on the last working day before the day of the Survey (the target group). In Germany, Iceland and Norway, at least three in ten staff report that the target group includes 11% or more children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre, meaning that in a group of ten children, there will be at least one child speaking another language.

What do children learn and do?

TALIS Starting Strong asks staff about the practices that are used in their centres. This information helps gain a sense of what is happening in ECEC centres, although it cannot reflect children’s own perspective on their experiences in the centres.

In all countries, a large majority of staff report wide use of practices facilitating children’s socio-emotional development (such as talking with children about feelings and encouraging children to help each other) or practices facilitating children’s language development (such as encouraging children to talk to each other and singing songs or rhymes). Specific practices emphasising literacy and numeracy (such as playing number games or playing with letters) are used to a lesser extent. Overall, these findings suggest that ECEC focuses on developing interpersonal and language skills.

The beliefs of staff on the skills and abilities that are important for children to develop for their future are related to staff practices and thereby to the types of activities children are engaged in in the playroom/classroom. Oral language skills and the ability to inquire and explore based on one’s own curiosity and to think creatively are among the skills considered as the most important. Staff consider as less important the foundational cognitive skills that are valued in schools and further education, such as reading, writing, numeracy and science.

With which staff do children interact at their centres?

Children are mainly interacting with women in ECEC centres: 95% of pre-primary education staff and 96% of staff in centres serving children under age 3 are women, across all countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong. The majority of staff are between 30 and 49 years old. In Korea and Turkey, however, around 40% of staff are under age 30.

In many countries, children interact with both staff with relatively high levels of education (often teachers) and staff with less education (often assistants). Staff in the ECEC field have typically completed education beyond secondary school, but average education levels mask differences within countries between staff who work as teachers and those who work as assistants in all countries for which the distinction can be made, except Korea. In Chile, Israel at pre-primary level and Norway, there are large differences in the educational background of assistants and less so for teachers.

Where are children’s centres located?

In all participating countries, a majority of centre leaders report that children are in centres where the neighbourhood is a good place to raise children. But there are also negative perspectives, depending on the country. For instance, more than one in ten leaders in all countries, except in Japan and Norway “agree” or “strongly agree” that there is vandalism and deliberate damage to property in the neighbourhood of the centre or litter lying around. Children are in ECEC centres that are usually in stand-alone buildings in countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong, except in Turkey, where co-location with primary schools is the most common arrangement.

How much is spent per child?

On average in OECD countries, USD 8 605 per child was spent on ECEC in 2016 (OECD, 2019[4]). This is similar to expenditure per child in primary education institutions, but it hides differences within the ECEC sector. On average in OECD countries, expenditure per child in early childhood educational development (generally for children under age 3) is in fact higher than what is spent in primary education, while expenditure per child in pre-primary education (generally for children aged 3-5) is slightly lower. On average in OECD countries, expenditure per child in 2016 was USD 12 080 in early childhood educational development and USD 8 349 in pre-primary education. Some countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong spend more per child on ECEC than the OECD average (Denmark, Germany, Iceland and Norway), while others spend less (Chile, Israel, Japan, Korea, and Turkey).

copy the linklink copied!Ensuring quality of early childhood education and care systems: Policy implications

The findings presented in this report suggest four broad areas where policies and practices can improve conditions to support children’s learning, development and well-being. The remainder of this chapter is structured around these objectives:

  • promote practices that foster children’s learning, development and well-being

  • attract and retain a high-quality workforce

  • give a strong start to all children

  • ensure smart spending in view of complex governance and service provision.

For each of these broad objectives, this chapter highlights key findings, offers some examples of good performance (as shown in italics), and points out policy strategies that can be considered to enhance ECEC quality. However, as TALIS Starting Strong results vary across and within countries, the proposed policy pointers may not be relevant to all ECEC systems.

Promote practices that foster children’s learning, development and well-being

Early childhood staff use many practices to support children’s learning, development and well-being in both cognitive and socio-emotional areas. These practices can help children to reach their full potential in terms of learning and development. To approximate process quality, TALIS Starting Strong has developed a rich set of indicators that explore the variety of practices used by staff to foster children’s development in multiple dimensions. Policies can support process quality by training and supporting staff to use relevant practices. Including examples of these practices in curriculum frameworks and ensuring that the size and organisation of groups of children are conducive to optimal staff-child interaction can also facilitate the use of these practices.

Country examples: For pre-primary education, Korea appears to combine a well-trained workforce on various aspects, including engaging parents and guardians, facilitating children’s transition across levels of education, ensuring that a large percentage of staff benefit from professional development and broad use of practices to support children’s learning, development and well-being in a holistic way (Table 1.1, Indicators 1 to 18). Norway shares similar patterns to some extent, but with a large share of staff with relatively low levels of education combined with high participation in professional development.

Design high-quality pre-service and in-service training programmes to shape staff practices

TALIS Starting Strong builds on the concept that ECEC is effective when staff use practices that help all children to learn and develop to their full potential in multiple dimensions, regardless of their socio-economic background, native language and other specific needs. In all countries, the percentage of staff who report that practices that facilitate children’s socio-emotional development apply “a lot” in ECEC centres is larger than the percentage who report that practices specifically emphasising literacy and numeracy development apply “a lot”. For instance, for pre-primary education, the gap between the percentage of staff indicating that “encourage children to talk to each other” and “play number games” applies “a lot” to staff in the centre is large in Iceland, Japan, and Norway and relatively small in Chile, Korea and Turkey (Table 1.1, Indicator 1). In these latter three countries, the smaller gap may suggest an approach giving pre-academic and socio-emotional learning and development more equal weight.

Education and training for staff can support their knowledge and use of effective practices with children. It can also shape their beliefs. In many countries, 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. Staff consider the foundational cognitive skills valued in schools and further education, such as reading, writing, numeracy and science, as less important. This is in line with their less frequent use of the practices to develop these skills.

TALIS Starting Strong also looks at the practices used with the group of children staff were working with on the last working day before the day of the Survey (the target group). When reporting on practices used with the target group, on average across countries in pre-primary settings, less than 50% of staff report that they “always or almost always” use specific practices to provide individual support to children and adapt to children’s needs. This may reflect a number of barriers staff face to individualise practices for children (such as a lack of time to do so) and may also reflect a need for stronger preparation of staff to use these practices when working with a group of children. Furthermore, TALIS Starting Strong data show that staff with more education, particularly training to work with children, and more responsibility in the target group, report using more adaptive practices (see Chapter 3). These practices can facilitate children’s learning and development in a large range of areas, such as socio-emotional and cognitive. Staff who participated in professional development during the year prior to the Survey also generally report more use of adaptive practices.

Staff in the ECEC field typically have completed education beyond secondary school, with Japan, Korea and Turkey having the highest rates of ECEC staff with post-secondary education and Iceland, Israel and Norway having the lowest rates in pre-primary education centres (Table 1.1, Indicator 2). There is also large variation within countries in staff educational background. Training specifically to work with children as part of pre-service programmes is not universal, ranging from 64% of staff in Iceland to 97% in Germany (Table 1.1, Indicator 3). In addition, if staff benefitted from training to work with children, this preparation did not necessarily include a practical component (Table 1.1, Indicator 4). Overall, a significant percentage of staff may be insufficiently prepared through their pre-service education and training programme to work in the ECEC sector in Iceland, and to some extent in Israel and Norway for pre-primary education, while staff appear globally well-prepared in Germany, Japan and Korea.

Continuous professional development is one of the most promising ways to enhance process quality in ECEC settings. It can help staff who are inadequately prepared through their pre-service training to catch up, get all staff to learn about pedagogical innovations and new skills needs and, if professional development is taken as a group, build a common approach to practices within centres. Participation in ongoing professional development is common among ECEC staff, ranging from 79% of staff in Israel indicating that they participated in a training activity in the 12 months prior to the Survey to near universal participation (97%) in such activities by staff in Korea (Table 1.1, Indicator 5).

Leaders in ECEC settings tend to have formal education at the level of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or above. Exceptions to this include Japan and, to some extent, Israel’s sector serving children under age 3 (Table 1.1, Indicator 6). Leaders may better support staff in the use of practices fostering children’s learning, development and well-being if they have been trained to support and guide staff in their pedagogical practices. In all participating countries except Germany, a majority of leaders received training on pedagogical leadership (Table 1.1, Indicator 7).

Policy pointer 1: Ensure that pre-service and in-service education and training programmes for staff lead to a common understanding of good practices

Depending on the age structure of the ECEC workforce and the tradition of pre-service education and training programmes, there can be large variation within countries in how staff are prepared for their roles. Countries in which a significant part of the workforce appear to be inadequately prepared to develop quality staff-child interaction strategies should emphasise the need to develop specific in-service programmes that focus on these aspects. Countries can ensure that pre-service and in-service training programmes for staff fully recognise the need for young children to progressively develop a holistic set of skills, including socio-emotional skills, literacy and numeracy skills and interest in science and the arts.

ECEC curriculum frameworks do not only shape what staff do with children; they also underpin education and training programmes. Policy makers can establish guidelines or curriculum frameworks that encourage high-quality practices, provide support to help implement these practices and focus on aspects of children’s holistic development (see Box 2.1 in Chapter 2).

Policy pointer 2: Include a work-based learning component in all pre-service ECEC programmes

Work-based learning components in pre-service training programmes can help staff to learn how to manage a group of children in the classroom/playroom setting, adjust practices to children’s changing needs and effectively foster children’s learning, development and well-being. Work-based learning can also provide a mechanism to attract new staff, ensure they are familiar with the day-to-day demands of the job and grow the ECEC workforce (see Box 3.1 in Chapter 3). Finally, participants in work-based learning can help to support ECEC staff by providing additional adults in the classroom/playroom, enabling staff to give more individualised attention to children.

Support engagement with parents

TALIS Starting Strong considers how staff and leaders engage parents/guardians as a key part of process quality in ECEC centres. These practices, including supporting parents to be their children’s first educators, have been shown in the literature to be a powerful driver of children’s learning, development and well-being.

There are many benefits of consulting parents/guardians when developing strategies to support children’s learning and development in ECEC settings. Parental partnerships are critical in enhancing the knowledge of ECEC staff about the children they work with, ensuring high-quality learning for children at home and developing good communication between parents and ECEC staff. Aspects of interactions between staff and parents/guardians are also of paramount importance for the quality of ECEC provided to children and families of diverse cultural or socio-economic backgrounds and to dual/second-language learners.

In all countries, the majority of staff are aware of the importance of engaging with parents, which they learned about during their pre-service programme (Table 1.1, Indicator 8). Parent engagement, however, is not addressed as much in professional development. During the 12 months prior to the Survey, a majority of staff received training on engaging with parents/guardians only in Chile, Japan, Korea, and in Germany for staff in centres for children under age 3 (Table 1.1, Indicator 9).

Practices associated with exchanging information with parents regarding daily activities and children’s development are well established, but practices that specifically engage parents in children’s development are less frequent. In particular, there are large variations across countries in the percentages of staff who report encouraging parents to play and participate in learning activities at home with their children and in the percentage of leaders who report that the centre provided “workshops or courses regarding child-rearing or child development” over the 12 months prior to the Survey (Table 1.1, Indicators 10 and 11).

Policy pointer 3: Ensure that pre-service and in-service education and training programmes for staff lead to a common understanding of successful ways to engage parents

Countries can ensure that engaging parents and staff in as many ways possible to support children’s development is fully integrated in both pre-service and in-service education and training programmes. Professional development, on this aspect, could be targeted to staff in centres with a large share of children from different cultural backgrounds or with special needs to build a bridge between their home-learning environment and the daily ECEC experience. The importance of engaging parents could also be emphasised in curriculum frameworks.

Facilitate children’s transitions across levels of education

Children at an early age face important transitions, such as transitioning from pre-primary education to primary education. Many young children also have to transition from programmes for children under age 3 to pre-primary education centres.

Interaction and engagement between early-years services and other services can support smooth transitions within ECEC and from ECEC to school. Well-prepared transitions may be critically important for children and their families from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are at greater risk of lack of support and consistency between home, ECEC and schools (OECD, 2017[5]).

TALIS Starting Strong asks leaders how often their centres engage in communication and co-operation with primary education staff. In all countries except Israel and Korea, most leaders report communicating with primary education staff (Table 1.1, Indicator 12). TALIS Starting Strong also inquires about whether centres hold meetings with primary school staff and provide activities for parents to facilitate transitions. The analysis based on TALIS Starting Strong suggests that those practices are more frequent when ECEC centres are co-located with primary schools. However, in all participating countries except Turkey, only a minority of centres are co-located with primary schools, which implies that it is even more important to encourage co-operation between staff and leaders of ECEC centres and schools (Table 1.1, Indicator 13).

Pre-service and in-service education and training programmes can prepare staff to include transition practices as part of their work with children and parents. In Korea, Norway and Turkey, a large share of staff report that their pre-service programme included practices to facilitate transitions (Table 1.1, Indicator 14). In all countries except Japan, a minority of staff received training on facilitating transitions in the 12 months prior to the Survey (Table 1.1, Indicator 15). For staff working with children under age 3, a smaller number of staff in the four participating countries received training on this aspect.

Policy pointer 4: Ensure that pre-service and in-service education and training programmes for staff include how to prepare children (and families) for transitions across levels of education

In some countries, pre-primary education settings and primary schools are co-located, which may facilitate transitions for children. This could be one of the options to consider when building new ECEC centres, but it is important to continue ensuring age-appropriate practices.

More generally, countries can make sure that staff and leaders are well-prepared to use the multiple options that can facilitate transitions, ranging from specific practices with children to co-operation with primary schools and parents. Those aspects can be better integrated in in-service training programmes. Countries can influence the use and quality of practices by staff by establishing guidelines or curriculum frameworks that encourage high-quality practices, providing assistance to implement these practices and putting the focus on children’s development and well-being.

Favour interactions between staff and children as part of small groups of children

Several studies indicate that smaller group sizes and a higher number of staff per child are conducive to high-quality interactions between staff and children, although the evidence is not always conclusive (Burchinal et al., 2002[6]; Cryer et al., 1999[7]). Analyses from TALIS Starting Strong find that, on average in participating countries, pre-primary education staff working with a relatively large group of children are more likely to use behavioural support practices such as “asking the children to quieten down when activities begin” or “addressing children’s disruptive behaviour that slows down other children’s learning” (see Chapter 2). Larger group size is associated with more practices for behavioural support in Chile, Israel and Korea at the pre-primary level and Denmark in centres for children under age 3 (with low response rates). Behavioural support can be positive for children’s learning and development, but staff may have less time to focus on other activities when they use those practices a lot.

In pre-primary settings in Iceland and Israel, staff who report more stress from having too many children in the class or group report using fewer practices to adapt to children’s interests, needs and background. This finding may indicate that staff limit the amount they engage in more individualised practices if they feel more overwhelmed by the number of children they are working with. Staff who report more stress from having too many children in the target group also report using more behavioural support practices in pre-primary settings in Germany, Japan, Korea and Turkey. In pre-primary centres in Denmark (with low response rates), Germany, Iceland, Israel, Korea and Norway, a majority of staff report that “having too many children in my classroom/playgroup/group” is “quite a bit” or “a lot” a source of stress (Table 1.1, Indicator 16). This is also the case in centres for children under age 3 in Denmark (with low response rates), Germany and Norway.

The Survey provides information on the size of the first group of children staff were working with on the last working day before the day of the Survey (the target group). The size of the target group reported by staff in pre-primary education centres varies between 16 children on average in Germany, Iceland, Korea, Norway and Turkey to more than 20 in Chile, Israel and Japan (see Chapter 2). In centres for younger children, the size of the group is slightly smaller. There are also variations within countries. In Chile, Israel (for both pre-primary centres and centres for children under age 3) and Japan, at least two-thirds of target groups have a size that is higher than the median of participating countries (18 children for pre-primary centres and 12 children for centres for children under age 3) (Table 1.1, Indicator 17).

The Survey also provides information on the size of centres and the total number of staff in centres. The “number of staff per child” refers to the total number of staff in the centre, regardless of their role, divided by the number of children in the centre. The total number of staff per child in ECEC centres becomes less favourable as the size of the centre increases across countries. In all participating countries, the number of staff per child is bigger in smaller centres than in larger centres, but this is particularly the case in Chile, Denmark (in centres for children under age 3, with low response rates) and Korea (Table 1.1, Indicator 18, see Chapter 4). The within-country variation in the number of staff per child in ECEC centres highlights that children’s experiences in ECEC can vary greatly even within a single country.

Policy pointer 5: Investigate options to foster interactions between staff and children as part of small groups and ensure that larger groups benefit from well-trained staff

Facilitating interactions between staff and children as part of small groups could be considered, particularly in Chile and Israel (pre-primary education level) and also potentially in Japan, where staff work with relatively large groups of children, which appears to be related to their practices. As an overall reduction of the size of groups can be financially costly and countries face competing spending priorities, flexible organisation of activities and practices over the day can ensure that staff interact with small groups of children in at least some moments during the day. Countries also have to ensure that large centres have a sufficient number of staff. Finally, well-trained staff need to be allocated to larger groups of children.

Attract and retain a high-quality workforce

Given the importance of a qualified workforce for providing high-quality ECEC, strategies to recruit new staff with relevant pre-service training are crucial, as are strategies to keep these trained professionals in the ECEC sector. Yet, earnings quality still tends to be low for ECEC staff, which may harm process quality and staff retention (OECD, 2018[1]). Furthermore, staff well-being seems to matter for their use of specific practices with children, suggesting that staff who are less satisfied with their jobs or who experience more work stress may be less likely to engage in rich interactions, limiting the level of process quality in their classrooms/playrooms. Policies can raise the status of ECEC staff as a profession and reduce sources of instability and stress, particularly through ensuring access to relevant, ongoing professional development opportunities.

Country examples: For pre-primary education, staff in Norway appear to be relatively satisfied with their jobs, to generally have permanent contracts and to benefit from opportunities for professional development (Table 1.1, Indicators 19 to 25). A similar pattern holds for Israel and Turkey, but overall participation of staff in professional development is lower in the two countries (Table 1.1, Indicator 5). In Israel, less educated staff report lower participation in professional development than highly educated staff.

Raise the status of the profession

A majority of staff in all countries report feeling valued by the children and parents or guardians they serve. A majority of staff also “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement “All in all, I am satisfied with my job” (Table 1.1, Indicator 19). However, in all countries, staff reports of feeling valued by society are much lower (Table 1.1, Indicator 20): at the lower end, only 31% of staff in Japan “agree” or “strongly agree” that ECEC staff are valued in society. Among pre-primary staff in Israel, this number rises to 75%, although this is still far below their level of agreement that they are valued by the children they serve. Importantly, staff in several countries who agree that ECEC staff are valued in society report using more practices that are tailored to individual children than staff who do not agree with this statement. These countries include the pre-primary sector in Chile, Germany, Japan and Korea and the sector serving children under age 3 in Denmark (with low response rates), Israel and Norway (see Chapter 3).

Staff perceptions of being valued by society are likely shaped, at least in part, by the salaries they receive. In all countries, fewer than two in five staff report being satisfied with their salary (Table 1.1, Indicator 21). Across OECD countries, pre-primary education teachers earn only 78% of the salaries of full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education (ISCED levels 5 to 8) in other fields (OECD, 2019[4]). Given the diversity of educational backgrounds among ECEC staff, as well as the number of ECEC staff who do not work full-time, some salary differences may be due to characteristics of the workforce and their labour contracts.

Policy pointer 6: Review ECEC staff financial packages to ensure that they can attract and maintain a high-quality workforce in the sector

To attract and retain a high-quality workforce, ECEC systems need to offer attractive financial packages. However, most countries have limited room for increased public expenditure, and ECEC budgets compete with the budgets of both other levels of education and other public policies. In this context, a long-term objective could be to ensure that ECEC financial packages are aligned with those proposed to teachers in other levels of education, especially primary education, to recognise ECEC staff as key contributors in education systems. In parallel, policies can focus on raising the quality of pre-service education and ongoing training to ensure alignment between the quality of the workforce and wages and meet this long-term objective. Policy makers also need to engage with the profession to identify and agree on the policy priorities and on how to implement them, given the budget constraints many countries face. This may include a broad review of the cost-efficiency of education expenditure, both within and outside the ECEC sector.

Reduce sources of instability and stress

Staff turnover in ECEC centres matters for the stability of relations among staff and between staff and children, contributing to both staff well-being and process quality more generally. ECEC centre leaders across countries report that, on average in the previous year, between around 1 and 5 staff members permanently left their centres for every 15 current staff. In a quarter of the centres in Iceland, Israel (at both levels of ECEC), Japan and Korea, at least one in five staff members left in the previous year (see Chapter 4). Staff leaving their centres is partly due to the age of the workforce. On average across participating countries, retirement is the most likely reason to leave the profession indicated by staff. Staff leaving their centres can also reflect instability in staff contractual status, as a substantial minority of ECEC staff work on fixed-term rather than permanent contracts (Table 1.1, Indicator 22). At the same time, several countries face difficulties attracting candidates to the profession.

TALIS Starting Strong gives information on the sources of work stress faced by staff. Among sources of work stress that staff rate as causing them “a lot” of stress across all countries, a lack of resources is among the top three. Another common source of work stress across countries is having too many children in the classroom/playroom. Other sources of work stress vary across countries, highlighting the importance of asking staff about their working conditions. For example, staff in Iceland report comparatively little stress related to documenting children’s development, and staff in Korea report comparatively high stress from having too much administrative work. Identifying and addressing sources of instability and of stress in the profession are important to maintain the workforce and attract new candidates.

Policy pointer 7: Engage in dialogue with ECEC professionals to identify sources of work stress and develop strategies to alleviate them

Among the various sources of stress, not all require the same effort to alleviate them. Governments can engage with the profession to identify sources of stress and prepare plans with both short-term and long-term actions to mitigate them. Reducing the amount of work to document children’s development could, for instance, involve identifying types of documentation that are not needed or moving to quicker and easier types of documentation better integrated in daily practice, possibly using technology.

For countries where having too many children in the group is a source of stress and where the size of groups is relatively large (e.g. pre-primary centres in Israel), reducing group size could be a policy priority. For countries where group size is an important source of stress but average group size tends to be smaller (e.g. Iceland), ensuring a good mix of highly trained staff with additional support staff for each group could be a more appropriate policy goal.

Ensure equal access to relevant professional development

Professional development can support staff to enhance quality in their interactions with children (Markussen-Brown et al., 2017[8]; OECD, 2018[1]). It can also help mitigate negative associations between staff stress and their interactions with young children (Sandilos et al., 2018[9]). TALIS Starting Strong data show that staff who participated in professional development during the year prior to the Survey generally report adapting their practices more to individual children’s development and interests. To adjust to the changing landscape of ECEC provision, and given the multiple educational pathways that exist to prepare staff for a career in ECEC as well as staff shortages in many countries, providing ongoing professional development in the area of young children must be a priority for all staff. Professional development opportunities are especially important in countries in which part of the workforce has a relatively low level of educational attainment or is relatively old, for example in Iceland and Israel.

In all participating countries, a majority of staff (more than three-quarters) report having participated in professional development activities within the 12 months prior to the Survey (Table 1.1, Indicator 5). Despite overall strong rates of participation in professional development, there are differences in participation related to staff background. Staff with higher levels of pre-service education (equivalent to ISCED level 6 or above) are more likely to report participation in professional development activities in the previous year than their colleagues with lower pre-service educational attainment in most countries, especially among pre-primary staff in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates) and Israel (Table 1.1, Indicator 23). To address the participation gap between more and less educated staff, policies need to act on multiple fronts.

The most prevalent barrier to participation in professional development reported by staff in both pre-primary education and in centres for children under age 3 is a lack of staff to compensate for absences (Table 1.1, Indicator 24). This is the number one barrier to participation in professional development in all countries and populations, except for Chile. In Chile, staff report that their top barrier is that professional development activities are too expensive, which is also a common barrier in other participating countries (Table 1.1, Indicator 25). The lack of replacement staff to compensate for absences is often perceived as a higher barrier to professional development in publicly managed centres than in privately managed centres. Otherwise, staff in publicly and privately managed centres generally agree on the main barriers to their professional development.

The content of professional development staff received in the 12 months prior to the Survey is only partially aligned with their reported needs. For example, in contrast to the strong reported need for ongoing training to work with children with special needs, only in Japan is this content area among the top three covered in recent professional development activities. However, staff reports of professional development needs may be shaped by staff beliefs and prior training experiences.

Policy pointer 8: Compensate for staff absence to allow time to participate in professional development and encourage flexible forms of training

Compensating for staff absence and providing release time during regular working hours for professional development activities are necessary to encourage greater engagement in ongoing training. Staff absence is also a widely cited barrier to effectiveness among centre leaders, making it important to address this issue to ensure that leaders can be supportive of staff professional development opportunities.

The most frequent type of support, receiving release time from working with children for professional development activities during regular working hours, was available to only 48% of pre-primary staff who participated in professional development in the year before the Survey. This release time is particularly important for increasing the likelihood that staff will participate in in-person courses or seminars. However, it also supports participation in coaching with an external person, which is a particularly effective form of professional development for enhancing staff interactions with children (Egert, Fukkink and Eckhardt, 2018[10]).

Flexible forms of training, such as learning from peers and mentoring, can help staff improve their practices with children. These informal forms of professional development do not require release time from working with children, as they can be easily combined with staff’s usual schedules. Leaders can play an important role in developing a stimulating learning environment for staff through co-operation and exchanges about their practices, but they need to be prepared for that role.

Policy pointer 9: Ensure that financial cost is not a barrier to participation in professional development

Participation in professional development entails both direct and indirect costs. Staff need adequate financial returns to support their investments in ongoing training. This points to several options for policies: 1) financing part of the cost of training to limit the upfront cost for participants; 2) developing flexible training programmes that enable working and training at the same time to avoid a loss of wages; and 3) developing career progressions to ensure that the cost of training is offset by higher future wages. This latter point is particularly important for staff participation in a qualification programme (e.g. a degree programme).

Policy pointer 10: Engage in dialogue with staff and leaders to identify and agree on the needs for high-quality professional development

There should be alignment between in-service training programmes and staff perceptions of their training needs. A shared understanding of important directions for professional development between staff and training programmes can also help to align policy goals (e.g. improving parent engagement in learning and development activities) with staff expectations for their ongoing training. The quality of ongoing training needs to be monitored to ensure that staff are benefitting from their engagement in these activities and to encourage ongoing interest in continuous professional development.

In addition, dialogues with staff can help ensure that the training needs for both teachers and assistants are met in countries where this distinction is reflected in both pre-service and in-service training, such as in pre-primary settings in Chile and Israel. Assistants may need or be interested in different types of ongoing training than teachers. Policies that require all staff, regardless of their roles, to participate in ongoing professional development can reduce the participation gap between teachers and assistants.

Give a strong start to all children

Participation in high-quality ECEC can be particularly beneficial for children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes, those with special needs or those whose first language is different from the one(s) mainly used in the country and its educational institutions. By supporting children’s socio-emotional and cognitive development, high-quality ECEC can help all children have a strong start on their educational pathways and help mitigate potential inequalities between children from different backgrounds (OECD, 2017[3]) (OECD, 2018[1]).

Harnessing the benefits of ECEC for all children requires providing access to the services for those facing greater barriers, as well as ensuring that staff are well-prepared to adapt their practices to the needs of children with different characteristics and that centres have the resources to provide additional support where required. Several participating countries have many ECEC centres in which a large share of staff work in centres with sizable groups of children with diverse characteristics, such as children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes or children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre (Table 1.2, Indicators 26, 28 and 29; see Chapter 4).

Country examples: For pre-primary education, in Germany, Iceland and Norway, many centres serve large percentages of children whose first language is different from the language(s) of the centre, and large percentages of staff are educated and trained to work with these children (Table 1.2, Indicators 26 to 34). Chile and Turkey appear to have many centres with large shares of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes and large percentages of staff who report using practices to adapt to children’s cultural background or to promote diversity. In Japan, many centres serve large percentages of children with special needs, and large percentages of staff are trained to work with these children.

Ensure equal access to high-quality ECEC for all children

Children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds tend to attend ECEC for a shorter period of time than advantaged children. Prior data show that this difference is relatively small in countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong, except in Turkey and to some extent in Chile and Norway (OECD, 2017[3]). Countries have taken action to facilitate access and address these disparities by introducing legal entitlements to a place in ECEC and providing services free of charge for some or all children (see Annex A). In most participating countries, more than half of children are enrolled in ECEC before they turn 3, but the share remains lower in Chile, Germany, Japan and Turkey (see Figure 1.2).

To meet the growing demand for ECEC places across countries, the ECEC sector relies more on privately managed provision than higher levels of education. TALIS Starting Strong shows that the share of privately managed pre-primary centres varies from 9% in Israel to 71% in Germany. Most of these centres, however, do not report aiming to generate a profit. Privately managed centres benefit from more autonomy, which means more responsibility at the centre level in shaping budget and human resources policies than in publicly managed centres. Privately managed centres are more common in more urban areas and, except in pre-primary education centres in Germany and Japan, they tend to have fewer children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes (Table 1.2, Indicator 27). Across countries, publicly managed centres also typically serve a larger share of children whose first language is different from the language(s) of the centre than privately managed centres.

The type of centre management (public or private) also appears to be linked to some dimensions of process quality in several countries. In Denmark (with low response rates), Germany (pre-primary centres), Iceland and Norway, publicly managed centres tend to make less use than privately managed centres of practices facilitating children’s learning and development and parental engagement. Staff in publicly managed pre-primary centres in Israel and Norway also report less support for professional development than staff in privately managed centres (see Chapter 5). Overall, these findings point towards a concentration of children with similar characteristics in the same type of centres and suggest that the dichotomy between privately and publicly managed centres may be a source of inequalities between children.

Policy pointer 11: Ensure consistent quality across public and private ECEC centres and support access to both types of settings for all families

Where differences persist in the participation of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes and/or with a home language different from the majority language in ECEC, governments should explore options to lower entry barriers for them. This can involve, for instance, making places available free of charge or on more progressive fee scales, ensuring that ECEC centres are close to parents’ homes or workplaces and that opening hours align with parents’ professional commitments. Centres should also provide the quality of interactions that are particularly important for the development of children from less favourable backgrounds. Given the strong role of the state in co-financing privately managed centres, governments have leeway to ensure that all children have access to high-quality services, regardless of how centres are being managed (see Box 4.3 in Chapter 4).

Prepare staff and leaders to adapt practices to children’s diverse backgrounds and needs

While high-quality practices are important for all children, pedagogical approaches need to consider children’s different needs. TALIS Starting Strong provides evidence that staff already adapt their practices to the characteristics of children in the group they work with. The percentage of staff reporting that they “always or almost always” adapt their activities to differences in children’s cultural background is higher for staff working with a larger percentage of children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre or who are from socio-economically disadvantaged homes. Large percentages of staff and leaders also report that it is important to learn about other cultures and that it is common to use books featuring a variety of cultural groups. However, concrete practices, such as getting children to sometimes play with toys from minority cultures, are less widespread in almost all countries, but particularly in Germany, Japan and Norway (Table 1.2, Indicator 30).

It is crucial to prepare staff to adapt their practice to children’s diverse characteristics. In all countries except Korea, the top priority need for professional development according to staff is working with children with special needs. Working with dual/second language learners is another area where staff in multiple countries participating in TALIS Starting Strong report a strong need for ongoing training. TALIS Starting Strong also shows that working with children with special needs or with children with a different first language is not systematically covered by pre-service and in-service training programmes (Table 1.2, Indicators 31, 32, 33 and 34). Overall, it seems that there is a perceived lack of training to work with children from different backgrounds, but an interest among staff in receiving this type of training (see Chapter 3).

Policy pointer 12: Ensure that practices for working with children from different cultural backgrounds and children with special needs are included in pre-service and in-service staff training

To ensure the quality of practice and support for staff, relevant preparation for their work with all children is crucial. Since in many countries the characteristics of children in ECEC change over the years, this preparation must take place not only as staff acquire their qualifications to work with children, but also as part of continuous professional development throughout their careers. When updating training plans and curricula, it is important to ensure coherence with the curriculum frameworks for ECEC provision itself. For example, the curriculum framework may emphasise the need to value the diversity of cultures and encourage staff to provide concrete opportunities for young children to get a better understanding of the diversity of cultures to ensure an effective integration of all children (see Box 2.5 in Chapter 2).

Allocate resources to provide additional support to those who need it most

The allocation of human and financial resources to centres and groups of children can mitigate, accentuate or leave unchanged the inequalities between children stemming from the fact that children from similar socio-economic or cultural backgrounds tend to be concentrated in the same centres and sometimes in the same groups of children. In pre-primary settings in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates) and Turkey, as well as in centres in Norway serving children under age 3, staff are more likely to have higher educational attainment when working in target groups with 11% or more children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes than their colleagues working in groups with a lower proportion of disadvantaged children. However, at the same time, pre-primary staff in Turkey and those in centres in Israel serving children under age 3 who work in groups with a higher proportion of children from disadvantaged homes tend to report having less experience (see Chapter 3).

TALIS Starting Strong suggests that there tend to be more children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes in centres where leaders report less availability of public spaces for children to play, indicating a less favourable context for learning, development and well-being outside the centre. However, apart from these cases, overall analyses do not show consistent links across countries between the allocation of human resources to ECEC centres and other aspects of the neighbourhood, geographic location or the concentration of children from disadvantaged homes (see Chapter 4). Thus, there is no indication that countries systematically provide enhanced services to centres (and therefore children) that need them most, but there is also little evidence that the allocation of human resources to ECEC centres increases inequities between centres with different geographical locations and child characteristics.

Policy pointer 13: Attract staff with high levels of relevant training to centres with higher shares of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes

Especially in countries where there is evidence that children starting their educational careers with some disadvantages are not benefitting from the best ECEC provision available, the incentives and rules for allocating resources across centres should be considered carefully. The overall staffing of centres with large shares of children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes can be reviewed to create favourable working environments for staff and learning environments for children. In view of persistent staff shortages in the sector, it is important to take measures to ensure that, at the centre level, such additional resources actually reach the children who require specific support, rather than being absorbed by broader capacity needs (see Box 4.3 in Chapter 4). In countries where salaries do not provide sufficient incentives for highly trained and experienced staff to work in centres with more children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes, rewards can be put in place to encourage work in these centres.

Ensure smart spending in view of complex governance and service provision

In the last decade, countries’ expenditure on ECEC has increased in line with a surge in attention from government authorities and growing scientific evidence highlighting the long-lasting benefits of high-quality ECEC for children, parents and society at large. However TALIS Starting Strong findings point to areas for policies that would require larger budgets.

The ECEC sector differs from primary and secondary levels of education in many respects, including the multiplicity of types of providers, the higher share of private expenditure, the large number of privately managed centres in several countries and the involvement of a greater variety of ministries and levels of governance, with local authorities often playing a more important role (see Chapter 5). In addition, provisions for funding and monitoring may deviate from those in the schooling sector, as ECEC is not part of compulsory education and its accountability mechanisms in most countries. While the complexity of the sector can imply more flexibility in some respects, it also means that it may be more challenging to ensure that public and private spending is used in an effective manner. By asking questions about funding and governance aspects to staff and leaders from a representative set of diverse ECEC centres, TALIS Starting Strong sheds light on the functioning of the sector from their perspective and provides new considerations for directing funding according to the sector’s needs and putting in place effective mechanisms to govern spending.

Country examples: In all countries except Chile and Turkey, staff absences, staff shortages (or both) are among the top three barriers to their effectiveness reported by leaders (Chapter 5). In Germany and Norway, at both levels of ECEC, staff report staff absences as a top priority for increased spending in the sector. Shortages of staff are also a major barrier to participation in professional development. Altogether, these findings suggest that attracting and retaining staff can be a priority area for policies. It may also be possible to take action on spending for quality at the centre level. A large share of pre-primary leaders report that process quality is monitored at least once a year in Israel and Korea and that they have responsibilities for allocation of the budget. This may suggest that spending can be reallocated to raise process quality (Table 1.2, Indicators 35 to 40).

Identify the priorities for spending allocations

According to TALIS Starting Strong, staff across countries in both pre-primary education settings and in centres for children under age 3 converge on their top three priorities for the items on which they would spend more if the budget of the ECEC sector as a whole were to increase by 5% (Table 1.2, Indicator 35). The reduction of group sizes by recruiting more ECEC staff appears as a clear priority, mentioned among the top three needs for pre-primary education settings in all countries surveyed except Chile and Turkey. Reduction of group sizes also appears as the top priority in centres for children under age 3 in Denmark (with low response rates), Germany and Norway, and as the second priority in Israel.

Improving staff salaries and receiving support for children with special needs are also mentioned among the top-three spending priorities in several countries, in both in pre-primary education settings and centres for children under age 3. Receiving high-quality professional development also appears as a top-three priority for staff in pre-primary education centres in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates), Norway and Turkey and for staff in centres for children under age 3 in all countries except Germany.

The Survey also shows some country-specific needs. Investing in buildings, facilities and material resources for children is the top priority for staff in Turkey. In Japan and Korea, staff’s second most important priority is the reduction of their administrative load through the recruitment of more support staff (Chapter 5).

Across countries, staff’s spending priorities are consistent with their answers on other aspects of the Survey. For instance, in centres with a higher number of children, or with a relatively limited number of staff per child, staff are more likely to indicate reduction of group size as a spending priority. Staff also indicate that having too many children in the group is an important source of stress and that a lack of staff to compensate for the absence of staff in training is an important barrier to participating in professional development.

The fact that improving staff salaries is indicated as a top spending priority is no surprise, since fewer than two in five staff report being satisfied with their salary in all participating countries. Since staff salaries likely shape, at least in part, staff perceptions of being valued by society, this spending priority is consistent with the perception of the majority of staff in Chile, Germany, Iceland, Japan and Korea that their profession is not valued by society (Table 1.1, Indicator 20).

Policy pointer 14: Set clear principles to identify spending priorities and engage with the profession to ensure that spending priorities are set in careful consideration of the needs identified on the ground

Across countries, staff’s converging answers on the need to increase spending on certain areas highlight that fundamental aspects of ECEC provision, such as addressing staff shortages, remain a shared concern in the ECEC sector. This is an important reminder for policy makers to consider how to effectively recruit ECEC staff and ensure the attractiveness of the profession before embarking on more specific aspects of ECEC provision. It also shows that priorities identified by ECEC staff are consistent with key issues considered by policy makers. The establishment of consultation mechanisms at early stages can help ensure that policies adapt to the sector’s transformations and changing needs and that policy changes are understood and acknowledged by staff. Policy makers also need to set clear principles for identifying spending priorities, accounting for the whole range of trade-offs within both the ECEC sector and the education sector more generally.

Ensure that monitoring meets quality improvement and accountability needs

Given the complexity of the ECEC system and the high level of autonomy devolved to local authorities and centres in some countries, monitoring can play an important role in ensuring quality across early childhood services. Monitoring structural and process quality, as well as child development, learning and well-being, can play an important role in improving staff practices and service provision and thus enhance children’s development (Sim et al., 2019[2]). Monitoring can also help policy makers steer the ECEC system to help ECEC staff improve interactions in the classroom/playroom and support children’s development. There is some evidence in the literature that positive feedback loops between monitoring systems and staff practices may be associated with gains in children’s language development (OECD, 2018[1]).

TALIS Starting Strong shows that, although participating countries have established structures and mechanisms to assess ECEC centres, monitoring efforts are focused on a limited number of domains that do not always directly relate to quality. Aspects linked to the state of the facilities and to financial management of the settings seem to be regularly monitored in most countries. Only a few centre leaders across countries report that they have never had inspections to ensure that facilities meet the appropriate requirements (e.g. regarding the space and equipment available and health and safety standards). The same applies to audits on the financial management of centres, with the exception of pre-primary centres in Chile and Israel, where more than a quarter of leaders report that they have never experienced such audits.

Structural features of quality (child-staff ratio, qualification levels of staff) and process quality (e.g. interaction with children, content of activities) appear to be unevenly monitored across countries. A majority of centre leaders report that they have inspections on process quality at least once a year in Chile, Denmark (with low response rates), Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea and Turkey (Table 1.2, Indicator 36). In Norway, a large share of leaders report that these inspections occur less than once a year. In Germany (in both centres for children under age 3 and pre-primary centres), Japan and Norway (in centres for children under age 3), more than 20% of leaders report that they have never had this type of inspection (Chapter 5).

Policy pointer 15: Ensure that quality standards and monitoring systems are guided by a clear regulatory framework that considers process quality

Gaining an understanding of the performance of ECEC systems through monitoring is important not only for purposes of accountability, but also for informing policy design and implementation beyond questions of access, health and safety. In addition to developing minimum standards on structural aspects of quality, countries should consider to what extent their monitoring systems are able to track the implementation of such regulations and their implications for process quality. Countries can ensure they systematically collect information on the quality of interactions in ECEC centres to inform policy for quality improvements.

Empower ECEC centre leaders

Centre leaders are often in the position of making key decisions at the centre level. At the same time, TALIS Starting Strong raises doubts about the extent to which centre leaders receive all the support they need to make a positive difference. There are large differences regarding leaders’ specific responsibilities across participating countries. In Denmark (in both centres for children under age 3 and pre-primary centres, with low response rates), Germany (in both centres for children under age 3 and pre-primary centres), Israel (in centres for children under age 3), Korea and Norway, a majority of leaders report they that they have significant responsibility in deciding on budget allocations within the ECEC centre and in appointing or hiring ECEC staff in their centre (Table 1.2, Indicators 37 and 38). Leaders appear to play a smaller role in the decision-making process in Japan and Turkey. Analyses based on TALIS Starting Strong suggest that in Germany, Japan and Norway, staff report more interactions fostering children’s learning, development and well-being when their centre leaders have influence on staff recruitment (Chapter 5).

Centre leaders also identify various barriers to their effectiveness (i.e. what they feel limits their ability to produce the desired outcomes in their centres). The main barriers cited by leaders as limiting their effectiveness “a lot” vary across countries, but staff absences or staff shortages appear at the top in Germany, Iceland, Israel (in centres for children under age 3), Japan and Norway (Table 1.2, Indicator 39). Indeed, in several countries, leaders report that around 20% of staff left their ECEC centre in the previous year (Table 1.2, Indicator 40). In several countries, leaders also highlight an inadequate budget, which is at the top of the barriers to effectiveness in Denmark (in both centres for children under age 3 and pre-primary centres, with low response rates), Israel (pre-primary education) and Turkey. Government regulation and policies are also often quoted as important barriers (Chapter 5).

These findings are in line with the main sources of stress reported by leaders. Having too much administrative work, a lack of resources (e.g. financial support and material resources) and a lack of staff to carry out work are the most important sources of stress for leaders (Chapter 3). The sources of stress for leaders of centres for children under age 3 generally reflect those expressed by their pre-primary counterparts. This raises questions about whether centre leaders at both levels of ECEC have too much procedural work to complete and/or whether they are sufficiently trained for this dimension of their job.

Leaders generally do not indicate that a lack of opportunities for professional development can be a barrier to their effectiveness. While this could be caused by a lack of self-awareness, leaders in most countries tend to be highly educated and have extensive experience (ten years or more) in the field of ECEC, except in Turkey, where slightly less than half of leaders report this level of experience. Experience specifically as leaders is somewhat more variable but still high, with the average ranging from approximately 5 years in Turkey to over 15 years in centres serving children under age 3 in Norway (Chapter 3).

Policy pointer 16: Investigate options to address the difficulties leaders face in recruiting temporary or permanent staff

Policies to attract and retain staff will ensure a more stable workforce at the centre level. However, those policies may take time to achieve results, while centre leaders are often confronted with urgent and immediate needs. Authorities in charge of ECEC can engage with centre leaders to identify their needs and help overcome obstacles to recruiting staff. In some countries, those needs may reflect broader labour shortages in the education, social and health sectors. This would require consultation with labour market institutions and might require initiatives to encourage geographical and sectoral mobility of potential candidates. Policies that support leaders to identify and manage stress among their staff can also benefit staff retention and process quality in classrooms/playrooms.

Policy pointer 17: Ensure that policies and regulations do not create an excessive burden to leaders that prevent them from exerting the various aspects of leadership

Some administrative burden is inevitable and tied to the day-to-day management and monitoring of ECEC centres that is needed to ensure quality. However, too much administrative work can prevent leaders from spending more time on pedagogical leadership or helping other staff in case of staff absences. Digitalisation provides several options to increase the efficiency of education policies while alleviating the administrative burden of leaders (Burns and Köster, 2016[11]). Countries could investigate whether such options can be better exploited in the ECEC sector, especially in small centres where leaders may need help to fully benefit from new technologies.

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Table 1.1. Data overview: Staff’s practices and working conditions

 

Chile

Germany*

Iceland

Israel

Japan

Korea

Norway

Turkey

Denmark**

Germany*

Israel

Norway

Denmark**

 

Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)

Children under age 3

Promote practices that foster children’s learning, development and well-being

Design high-quality pre-service and in-service training programmes to shape staff practices

1. Gap between the percentage of staff indicating that the two following practices apply “a lot” to staff in the centre: “Encourage children to talk to each other” and “Play number games”

13

29

41

16

39

12

28

8

66

43

45

34

63

2. Percentage of staff whose highest level of education is above secondary level

87

77

52

61

99

96

67

92

75

81

63

68

72

3. Percentage of staff who have received training specifically to work with children

74

97

64

77

94

79

77

72

70

95

71

74

64

4. Percentage of staff for whom practical training was included in the programme that prepared them to work with children

45

78

71

74

92

82

74

75

39

80

81

78

32

5. Percentage of staff having participated in professional development activities over the 12 months prior to the survey

83

82

87

79

85

97

94

83

78

83

79

94

79

6. Percentage of centre leaders with formal education equivalent to a bachelor’s degree or higher

94

79

77

95

44

87

99

92

97

85

65

98

100

7. Percentage of centre leaders whose training/education included pedagogical leadership

84

35

83

75

83

87

96

74

71

43

85

94

77

Support engagement with parents

8. Percentage of staff whose formal education or training programme included working with parents or guardians/families

68

87

72

61

86

92

89

89

83

87

59

87

79

9. Percentage of staff whose professional development activities over the 12 months prior to the survey included working with parents or guardians/families

58

45

25

48

68

71

44

35

48

50

44

44

44

10. Percentage of staff reporting that “parents or guardians are encouraged by ECEC staff to do play and learning activities with their children at home” describes “well” or “very well” how they engage with parents or guardians at their ECEC centre

90

65

51

76

53

76

44

96

74

61

65

42

72

11. Percentage of leaders reporting that the centre provided “workshops or courses regarding child-rearing or child development” over the 12 months prior to the survey

87

59

49

55

65

90

71

62

41

58

45

64

41

Facilitate children’s transitions across levels of education

12. Percentage of leaders who report that in their centre there is communication with ISCED level 1 school teachers (all those who do not say "never")

69

92

93

39

85

40

89

88

82

13, Percentage of leaders who report that their centre is co-located with a primary school

27

4

23

9

4

31

3

63

12

1

6

10

5

14. Percentage of staff whose formal education or training programme included facilitating transitions to pre-primary education (in centres for children under age 3) and to primary education (in ISCED level 02 centres)

68

62

50

57

61

72

72

90

48

43

60

55

54

15. Percentage of staff whose professional development activities over the 12 months prior to the survey included facilitating transitions

48

16

16

39

53

40

29

32

25

22

40

26

23

Favour interactions between staff and children as part of small groups of children

16. Percentage of staff reporting that having too many children in their classroom/playgroup/group is “quite a bit” or “a lot” a source of stress

37

61

61

53

23

51

63

34

52

52

40

57

65

17. Percentage of staff reporting that the number of children in the target group is higher than the median group size across participating countries1

71

46

47

95

72

35

34

35

48

49

84

50

36

18. Gap in the total number of staff per ten children in centres between the bottom and top quarters of centre size

6

1

1

2

1

7

2

2

3

1

2

3

18

Attract and retain a high-quality workforce

Raise the status of the profession

19. Percentage of staff who “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement: "All in all, I am satisfied with my job"

97

93

96

98

81

79

97

95

96

94

96

97

95

20. Percentage of staff who “agree” or “strongly agree” that ECEC staff are valued in society

40

36

33

75

31

47

52

50

61

37

56

58

55

21. Percentage of staff who “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement “I am satisfied with the salary I receive for my work”

31

26

10

33

23

37

30

39

36

29

16

30

32

Reduce sources of instability and stress

22. Percentage of staff with permanent contracts

66

83

78

80

61

24

88

76

90

82

87

88

91

Ensure equal access to relevant professional development

23. Gap in the percentage of staff reporting participation in professional development activities in the 12 months prior to the survey between those who have at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and those with lower educational attainment

15

10

10

28

11

0

8

0

35

7

5

5

21

24. Percentage of staff who “agree” or “strongly agree” that a lack of staff to compensate for their absences is a barrier to their participation in professional development

60

38

57

46

61

88

55

58

46

38

55

50

51

25. Percentage of staff who “agree” or “strongly agree” that professional development being too expensive is a barrier to their participation in professional development

79

34

42

42

54

69

47

38

47

38

59

47

51

1. The median (target) group size across participating countries is 18 for pre-primary education centres and 12 for centres for children under age 3.

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups in the TALIS Starting Strong 2018 data need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

** Low response rates in the survey may result in biases in the estimates reported and limit the comparability of the data.

Notes: The table highlights the top three countries (dark blue), the bottom three countries (light blue) and the two countries in the middle (medium blue) for the eight countries with data for pre-primary education (ISCED 02) that met the TALIS Starting Strong standard participation rates. These groupings were applied without consideration to statistically significant differences between countries or to the specific policy contexts within each country. More detailed information on each of these indicators is available throughout this report.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010147

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Table 1.2. Data overview: Equity, governance and funding

 

 

Chile

Germany*

Iceland

Israel

Japan

Korea

Norway

Turkey

Denmark**

Germany*

Israel

Norway

Denmark**

Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)

Centres for children under age 3

Give a strong start to all children

Ensure equal access to high-quality ECEC  

26. Percentage of leaders reporting that the centre includes 11% or more children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes 

65

27

7

14

4

11

7

30

27

23

22

11

18

27. Gap between publicly and privately managed centres in the percentage of ECEC centre leaders reporting that they serve 11% or more children from socio-economically disadvantaged homes

33

-2

3

12

-6

18

4

27

22

6

10

5

14

Prepare staff and leaders to adapt practices to children’s diverse backgrounds and needs

28. Percentage of leaders reporting that their centre includes 11% or more children whose first language is different from the language(s) used in the centre

6

47

46

16

2

2

40

19

43

41

10

39

38

29. Percentage of leaders reporting that their centre includes 11% or more children with special needs

34

9

24

10

14

2

8

3

29

10

3

4

21

30. Percentage of staff reporting that children sometimes playing with toys and artefacts from cultures other than the ethnic majority happens “to some extent” or “a lot” in their centre

52

15

33

49

32

46

15

70

22

12

38

12

21

31. Percentage of staff reporting that working with dual/second language learners was included in their formal training programme

19

45

52

24

a

37

64

a

55

43

26

61

55

32. Percentage of staff whose professional development activities over the 12 months prior to the survey included working with dual/second language learners

22

24

35

19

6

24

34

a

32

25

21

35

25

33. Percentage of staff reporting that working with children with special needs was included in their formal training programme

56

50

71

56

86

75

69

86

78

46

28

60

75

34. Percentage of staff whose professional development activities over the 12 months prior to the survey included working with children with special needs

56

17

38

38

74

45

36

35

45

20

21

30

40

Ensure smart spending in view of complex governance and service provision

Identify the priorities for spending reallocations

35. Top spending priority indicated by staff for the case of a budget increase of 5%

Special needs

Staff

Salary

Staff

Salary

Salary

Staff

Material

Staff

Staff

Salary

Staff

Staff

Ensure that monitoring meets quality improvement and accountability needs

36. Percentage of leaders who report receiving an inspection regarding process at least “once every year”

74

47

64

78

54

78

37

72

65

42

83

38

17

Empower ECEC centre leaders

37. Percentage of leaders reporting that they or other centre staff have significant responsibility for deciding on budget allocations within their centres

24

81

32

66

43

61

55

27

79

81

56

66

73

38. Percentage of leaders reporting that they or other centre staff have significant responsibility for appointing or hiring ECEC staff

53

76

100

10

45

77

85

11

92

76

79

77

97

39. Top barrier to leaders’ effectiveness in their centres, according to leaders

Lack of parent involvement

Staff absence

Staff absence

Budget resource

Staff shortage

Regulations

Staff absence

Budget resource

Budget resource

Staff absence

Staff shortages

Staff absence

Budget resource

40. Average share of staff who left their ECEC centre in the previous year, according to leaders

8

10

19

11

22

18

7

11

9

12

31

6

11

* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups in the TALIS Starting Strong 2018 data need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more information.

** Low response rates in the survey may result in biases in the estimates reported and limit the comparability of the data.

Notes: The table highlights the top three countries (dark blue), the bottom three countries (light blue) and the two countries in the middle (medium blue) for the eight countries with data for pre-primary education (ISCED 02) that met the TALIS Starting Strong standard participation rates. These groupings were applied without consideration to statistically significant differences between countries or to the specific policy contexts within each country. More detailed information on each of these indicators is available throughout this report.

Source: TALIS Starting Strong 2018 database.

 StatLink https://doi.org/10.1787/888934010166

References

[6] Burchinal, M. et al. (2002), “Caregiver Training and Classroom Quality in Child Care Centers”, Applied Developmental Science, Vol. 6/1, pp. 2-11, http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/S1532480XADS0601_01.

[11] Burns, T. and F. Köster (eds.) (2016), Governing Education in a Complex World, Educational Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264255364-en.

[7] Cryer, D. et al. (1999), “Predicting process quality from structural quality in preschool programs: A cross-country comparison”, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Vol. 14/3, pp. 339-361, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0885-2006(99)00017-4.

[10] Egert, F., R. Fukkink and A. Eckhardt (2018), “Impact of in-service professional development programs for early childhood teachers on quality ratings and child outcomes: A meta-analysis”, Review of Educational Research, pp. 401-433, http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/0034654317751918.

[8] Markussen-Brown, J. et al. (2017), “The effects of language- and literacy-focused professional development on early educators and children: A best-evidence meta-analysis”, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Vol. 38, pp. 97-115, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2016.07.002.

[4] OECD (2019), Education at a Glance 2019: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/f8d7880d-en.

[1] OECD (2018), Engaging Young Children: Lessons from Research about Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care, Starting Strong, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264085145-en.

[3] OECD (2017), Starting Strong 2017: Key OECD Indicators on Early Childhood Education and Care, Starting Strong, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264276116-en.

[5] OECD (2017), Starting Strong V: Transitions from Early Childhood Education and Care to Primary Education, Starting Strong, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264276253-en.

[9] Sandilos, L. et al. (2018), “Does professional development reduce the influence of teacher stress on teacher–child interactions in pre-kindergarten classrooms?”, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Vol. 42, pp. 280-290, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2017.10.009.

[2] Sim, M. et al. (2019), “Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey 2018 Conceptual Framework”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 197, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/106b1c42-en.

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1. Policy implications of the 2018 Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey