The Education and Training Policy of the Federal Democratic Republic Government of Ethiopia has included provision of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) for two decades. Under this policy, a pre-primary stage focuses on the ‘all-round development of the child in preparation for formal schooling’. Until recently, however, only very modest levels of pre-primary education were available, predominantly in urban centres, delivered primarily by the private sector.
Early childhood received a policy boost in 2010 through publication of a ‘National Policy Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)’. Since 2010, the Government of Ethiopia has supported large-scale implementation of pre-primary education, in all areas of the country via a combination of government, community, non-governmental, church and private sector initiatives. From a level of just over 340,000 in the 2009/10 academic year, enrolment reached over 3,000,000 in 2014/15. Based on current plans, this number should reach almost 6.5 million 4- to 6-year olds by 2020.
This policy paper was prepared for the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia as part of Young Lives ongoing engagement with the development of ECCE policies and services. The focus is on the ambitious goals for expanding learning opportunities during the pre-primary years, especially the challenges of ensuring equity in both access and quality, during rapid scale-up.
The paper focusses on the features of effective ECCE systems relevant to early learning in the pre-primary years and contrasts these with government plans for the years 2015-20. It acknowledges that the education targets can most effectively be achieved if they are coordinated within a multi-sectoral vision for children’s health and development from the period of birth through to school, as set out the four pillared National Policy Framework (2010). The importance of locating specific early learning initiatives within a comprehensive policy vision is reflected by increasing advocacy for holistic, multi-sectoral ’early childhood development’. Ensuring all children have access to early childhood development is also at the core of Target 4.2 of the recently agreed Global Goals for Sustainable Development.