Early childhood education and care (ECEC) holds immense potential for guiding children towards a positive and rich lifelong learning and development path. There is a need for affordable access for all to ECEC, coupled with the provision of quality services, to ensure that children are met with the best possible start in life.

Historically, policies on ECEC have focused on setting norms to ensure the safety of young children, such as the formulation of standards on buildings, materials or staff-to-child group ratios. However, it is the quality of a child’s experience, known as process quality, which matters most for their development, learning and well-being. Fostering process quality involves designing policies in a way that best facilitates meaningful interactions across all ECEC settings. This was the focus of the Quality beyond Regulations policy review, which the OECD developed to help countries and jurisdictions better support the different dimensions of quality in ECEC.

Although policies generally focus on child development that takes place within pre-primary education settings and learning environments, a great deal of valuable learning also takes place either deliberately or informally in other less formal settings. Such is the case with ECEC for children in their first years of life, as well as school-aged children during out-of-school hours. Traditionally out of scope in many countries, there is a growing awareness by governments worldwide that the entirety of the ECEC sector needs stronger public investment, supported by policies that help to enhance process quality.

Luxembourg is one such country that is currently driving an ambitious policy agenda for ECEC with a series of critical reforms coming into place in 2022 to improve access, affordability and quality for the country’s youngest children. The government reforms are predominantly focused on strengthening what is called non-formal education, which serves young children before compulsory school age (4 years old) and school-aged children during out-of-school hours, to support decades of public investment in pre-primary schools, part of “formal education”.

As part of its participation in this project, the Luxembourg government asked the OECD to conduct an in-depth review of the country’s ECEC system and the non-formal sector. Workforce development, and quality assurance and improvement are two powerful policy levers that can help drive improvement in the sector and are the main focus of this review. In addition, the review examines Luxembourg’s funding model, governance and organisation within the system, as well as equity, access and diversity. It also discusses, to a lesser extent, ECEC within the formal sector, which begins in Luxembourg with an optional year for children at age 3 before two years of compulsory ECEC from age 4.

The ECEC workforce, which encompasses professionals who interact with children and families in ECEC settings, is at the core of the quality of children’s experiences within these settings. Raising the professionalisation of the workforce and retaining high-quality staff is a challenge for many countries including Luxembourg. ECEC staff’s initial education, professional development and working conditions all matter for the quality of provision, career development and workforce satisfaction, thus making them priorities for reform in Luxembourg. The country also has a highly multilingual and multicultural society, which is reflected at the core of the ECEC system.

In addition, the government is focusing on strengthening its quality assurance and improvement system for non-formal education. In this context, the quality assurance system (e.g. monitoring and inspection) provides important feedback on strengths and weaknesses in the system to inform further actions for improvement. It provides valuable information for ECEC staff and parents to help them evaluate the quality of services when making decisions about their children’s early education and care.

The overarching objective of this review is to provide policy recommendations to strengthen the performance of the ECEC system in Luxembourg, in line with national policy goals. The realisation of this report was possible due to the strong engagement of a large range of stakeholders in Luxembourg, as well as the support of the European Commission. The report discusses potential ways to support the ongoing reform agenda and carefully design policies that can lead to meaningful interactions for all children as part of their ECEC experience.

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