Early childhood education and care experienced a surge of policy attention in OECD countries during the 1990s. Women – including mothers of young children - were joining the labour market in ever greater numbers, with a corresponding need for more childcare places and long-day kindergarten. Policy makers recognised that equitable access to quality early childhood education and care could both support the social needs of families and strengthen the foundations of lifelong learning for all children. Public investment in early childhood education and care would in future be shaped by several important policy objectives:
In many instances, the focus on young children has remained a subset of broader policy goals, whether they relate to employment, families, social equity or educational outcomes. Increasingly, however, high quality early childhood programmes are seen to contribute significantly to child well being, development and education. They are considered in all countries as a major means of providing a fair start in life for disadvantaged children. Recognising that cross-national information and analysis could contribute to the improvement of policy development, the OECD Education Committee launched the Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care Policy in 1996.
Actual reviewing by expert OECD review teams began in 1998, when twelve countries volunteered to participate in the review: Australia, Belgium (Flemish and French Communities), the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, the UK, and the USA. The review has taken a broad and holistic approach that considers how policies, services, families, and communities can support young children’s early development and learning. The term early childhood education and care (ECEC) includes all arrangements providing care and education for children under compulsory school age, regardless of setting, funding, opening hours, or programme content. The methodology of the study consists of four elements: (1) Preparation by participating countries of the Background Report; (2) Review team visits to participating countries; (3) Preparation of the Country Note; and (4) Preparation of the Comparative Report.
The goal of the review is to provide cross-national information to improve policy-making and planning in early childhood education and care in all OECD countries.
The review seeks to:
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