What is Early childhood education and care (ECEC)?
Early childhood education and care refers to any regulated arrangement that provides education and care for children from birth to compulsory primary school age, which may vary across the EU. It includes centre and family-day care, privately and publicly funded provision, pre-school and pre-primary provision. Quality early childhood education and care can lay the foundations for later success in life in terms of education, well-being, employability, and social integration, and is especially important for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. High-quality early childhood education and care is therefore an efficient and effective investment in education and training.
What is the EU doing?
The Commission adopted a proposal for a Council Recommendation on high quality early childhood education and care systems, which aims to support Member States in their efforts to improve access to and quality of their early childhood education and care systems.
This proposal includes a Quality framework, which identified 5 key components of a qualitative system:
- access to early childhood education and care,
- training and working conditions of staff in charge of early childhood education and care,
- definition of appropriate curricula and governance,
- monitoring and evaluation of systems.
The Quality Framework already supported reforms in many countries and helped improving the offer of early childhood education and care.
The EU benchmark of 95% of children above 4 years old attending early childhood education and care has globally been reached, but there are still wide differences across countries, regions and areas. The European Commission supports Member States in identifying challenges in this field and ways to address them.
The Commission also facilitates cooperation among Member States in the field of early childhood education and care, providing data and analysis on current developments in Europe.
What are the next steps?
A Working Group has been launched for a period of two years bringing together national representatives of the relevant ministries and European organisations interested in the topic to advance discussions on quality early childhood education and care, with a special focus on inclusion and staff development.
The Commission will continue funding projects which contribute to the quality of early childhood education and care, including through the training and professional development of staff in this sector. The Erasmus+ programme is instrumental to this effect.