Executive summary

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals are those best placed to support children’s development, learning and well-being outside of children’s homes. This report on the results of the OECD Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey 2018 (TALIS Starting Strong) examines the main factors that can help build a high-quality ECEC workforce. TALIS Starting Strong asks ECEC staff and leaders in nine participating countries (Chile, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway and Turkey) about their characteristics, practices at work and views on the ECEC sector.

  • From 64% of ECEC staff in Iceland to 97% in Germany have pre-service training with a focus on working with children. Among these staff, from 45% in Chile to 92% in Japan completed some practical training during their initial preparation programmes. Staff who completed a practical module tended to cover more areas of training.

  • In all countries, more than 75% of staff report having participated in recent in-service training activities, but this is more often the case for teachers than assistants, especially in Chile and Israel.

  • The quality of in-service training also matters. In all countries, pre-primary staff who covered more areas in both their pre-service and recent in-service training adapt their practices to children’s needs and interests more than staff who covered less contents. Cumulative training in a given area is associated with staff sense of self-efficacy for supporting children’s development and staff practices with children.

  • Across countries, ECEC staff are generally confident about their ability to promote children’s socio-emotional development, but less so about working with a diversity of children and using digital technology to support children’s learning.

  • Centre-embedded models of professional development, such as peer observation or mentoring, remain less common than off-site training activities.

  • ECEC staff more engaged in collaborative practices are more likely to participate in training activities, underscoring the synergies between formal and informal channels for skills development. Staff in Norway stand out for their strong engagement in feedback exchanges, joint activities with peers and participation in training.

  • ECEC staff show a high level of satisfaction with the profession, but their views on the working conditions in the sector are mixed.

  • From 61% of pre-primary staff in Turkey to 90% in Iceland indicate low satisfaction with their salary. Staff indicate retirement, health-related reasons, family responsibilities and work outside of the ECEC sector as the most likely reasons to leave their job, which suggests that they often envisage limited career progression within the sector.

  • From 25% of pre-primary staff in Iceland to 71% in Korea report that they need more support from their ECEC centre leader.

  • Sources of stress for the largest percentages of pre-primary staff are a lack of resources, having too many children in the classroom/playgroup/group, having too much work related to documenting children’s development and having too much administrative work.

  • Feelings of stress emerge from imbalances between job demands, resources and rewards. Support from leaders and satisfaction with salary act as buffers of stress in most of the countries, although not consistently. Training related to the source of stress, collaborative practices and control over decisions are not sufficiently developed or effective to act as significant buffers.

  • Shortages of staff create tensions for both staff and leaders in a multiplicity of areas, especially in Germany and Israel (centres for children under age 3) but less so in Denmark (with low response rates), Norway and Turkey.

  • On average, leaders of pre-primary centres spend around 30% of their time on administrative functions and 20% of their time on pedagogical functions. Pedagogical leadership is positively associated with staff attitudes and practices linked to quality in ECEC settings. Leaders whose initial preparation focused on early childhood and/or pedagogical leadership report more engagement in pedagogical tasks.

  • Opportunities for staff to participate in decision making at the ECEC centre are not widespread in all countries. Staff who perceive leadership as being more distributed in their ECEC centre tend to engage more frequently in professional collaborative practices and report greater satisfaction with their job.

  • Staff and leaders largely agree in their perceptions about the extent to which leaders succeed in setting a clear vision and goals for the centre, especially in Germany (pre-primary) and Norway (in both levels of education).

  • Centre leaders engage frequently with parents or guardians through formal or informal communication, especially in Chile, Iceland and Japan at the pre-primary level, and in Denmark (with low response rates) and Norway (in both levels of education).

  • While most leaders are satisfied overall with their jobs, they report relatively low levels of satisfaction with their salaries, in particular in Germany and Israel (in both levels of education), and in Iceland and Japan (pre-primary).

  • In many participating countries, the share of staff with training for working with children from diverse backgrounds is greater in ECEC centres with a higher diversity of children.

  • Differences between centres in terms of the composition of children or availability of resources are only moderately associated with staff working conditions. Staff in more challenging centres are therefore not systematically compensated with better working conditions.

  • Engagement with parents is more frequent in centres with a larger diversity of children only in Chile, Iceland and Israel.

The findings presented in this report suggest several priority areas for policies:

  • Adopt high standards for ECEC initial preparation programmes, and create the conditions to support both formal and informal learning among ECEC professionals.

  • Ensure that unfavourable working conditions do not accumulate on some ECEC staff and that the status and reward of ECEC professions are aligned with staff responsibilities.

  • Set the conditions for ECEC centre leaders to fulfil their multiple functions, and develop a shared understanding of how leadership can best support quality in ECEC centres.

  • Target enhancements in staff professional development and working conditions and in leadership development in ECEC centres with more diverse populations of children.


This work is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of OECD member countries.

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.

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.

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