Early childhood and schools

More OECD countries focusing on early childhood as key to education success


19/09/2006 - A new OECD report on early childhood policy, Starting Strong II shows that more countries are making early childhood education and care a priority, with greater attention paid to service quality. Increasingly, it shows, the early years are viewed as the first step in lifelong learning and a key to successful social, family and education policies.

Attitudes to education are deeply embedded in country contexts, values and beliefs, and the 20 countries reviewed – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States – all have diverse strategies in this field. Their variations reflect differing attitudes and cultural and social beliefs about young children, the roles of families and government and the purposes of early childhood education and care.

Starting Strong II provides a comparative analysis of policy developments and issues, highlighting innovative approaches and proposing policy options that can be adapted to different national contexts. Among other things, it notes:

  • a growing consensus – based on research from a wide range of countries covering demographics, social change and cost-benefit analyses – that governments must invest in and regulate early childhood education and care;
  • a trend towards integrating early childhood policy and administration under one ministry, often education;
  • moves towards greater contact between early childhood centres and schools, and growing use of national curricular frameworks in the early childhood sector;
  • the provision of at least two years of kindergarten before children enter compulsory schooling;
    growing, but still insufficient, government investment in services;
  • more participatory approaches to quality improvement, based on wide consultation of stakeholders and the engagement of professional staff in documentation and research;
  • clearer ideas at government level of the qualifications needed by staff to engage with rapidly changing social and family conditions;
  • an increase in university chairs in early childhood education and care policy;
  • and a recognition of the need for more country research and data collection in the field.

Starting Strong II is available to journalists on the OECD's password-protected website. For further information, journalists are invited to contact the OECD's Media Division ( tel. [33] 1 45 24 97 00). The publication can be purchased in paper or electronic form through the OECD’s Online Bookshop . Subscribers and readers at subscribing institutions can access the online version via SourceOECD

Further information on Starting Strong II can be found at :http//www.oecd.org/edu/startingstrong2



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