Our Priorities

Early childhood development, or ECD, is about the 'whole child' – the physical, social, emotional, cognitive thinking and language progression of each young individual.

Overwhelming global evidence indicates that good nutrition, stimulation and play, love and nurturing, early childhood education (3-6), and protection from violence and abuse play a critical role in the growth and development of an individual child but are also fundamental to building a stronger, more stable and prosperous society.

The estimated economic returns on investment in Early Childhood Education for children are as high as 1:17, proving it to be one of the most cost-effective strategies for reducing disparity. 

The Government of China is committed to early childhood development, or ECD.  Since the landmark decision by the Government of China in 2010 to dramatically expand early childhood education, the country has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of children aged 3-6 attending kindergartens, from just 45 per cent in 2009 to 70.5 per cent by 2014.  China is also exploring the emerging international focus on importance of integrated services for 0-3 year old children.

UNICEF works with The Ministry of Education, National Working Committee on Children and Women (NWCCW), All China Women's Federation (ACWF) and China National Children's Center (CNCC) to provide increased access to high quality ECD services for the most disadvantaged young children in China.  

What is UNICEF doing with partners to improve ECD in China?

Firstly, we are meeting parental demand for quality ECD information through parenting and family education programmes, a parenting portal, website and mobile phone application, and an annual ECD advocacy month with Ministry of Education in May/June, and ongoing advocacy activities. 

Secondly, for 0-3 year olds, UNICEF is raising awareness about the critical role of these early years on brain development and piloting integrated approaches to ECD for children aged 0-3.

Thirdly, for 3-6 year olds, UNICEF is focused on improving ECD quality.  We pilot ECD models and approaches for kindergart ens in rural counties and for urban poor and migrant children.  We are working on child friendly kindergartens curriculum, school readiness curriculum, and teacher training for rural teachers

Fourthly, we are supporting Ministry of Education with implementation of Early Learning Development Guidelines and with devising and implementation of other key national ECD tools, standards and guidelines.

Finally, UNICEF with the Government of China is advocating globally for ECD to be central to the post-2015 development agenda.

To learn more about our projects and research in early childhood education, please visit our ECD theme page.

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