Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world


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Starting Well is an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) research programme, commissioned by the Lien Foundation, which ranks the preschool environments in 45 countries. The EIU’s editorial team built the Starting Well Index, conducted the analysis and wrote the report. The findings and views expressed in this report are those of the EIU alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor.

During construction of the Index and research for this white paper the EIU interviewed a number of experts from across the world—including early childcare experts, academics, NGOs, preschool practitioners, and policy specialists—who are listed in the report. We would like to thank them all for their time.

For their time and advice throughout this project, we would like to extend our special thanks to Professor Sharon Kagan at Columbia University in the US and Professor Christine Pascal at the Centre for Research in Early Childhood in the UK.

James Watson was the author of the report and Sudhir Vadaketh was the editor. Kim Thomas assisted with research, interviews and case studies. The Index was devised and constructed by an EIU research team led by Trisha Suresh and Manoj Vohra.

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Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world

  1. 1. Starting wellBenchmarking early education across the worldA report from the Economist Intelligence UnitCommissioned by
  2. 2. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the worldContentsPreface 2Executive summary 5Introduction: The importance of starting well 91. The Starting Well Index 112. Availability 163. Affordability 214. Quality 25Conclusion 31Appendix 1: Index ranking 33Appendix 2: Index methodology 34 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 1
  3. 3. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world Preface Starting well is an Economist Intelligence Unit Interviewees and Index advisers: (EIU) research programme, commissioned by Cindy Acker, founder, The Child Unique Montessori the Lien Foundation, which ranks the preschool School, US environments in 45 countries. The EIU’s editorial Joana Alexandra Soares de Freitas, academic, team built the Starting Well Index, conducted the Association of Professionals in Early Childhood, Portugal analysis and wrote the report. The findings and views expressed in this report are those of the EIU Hamed Ali, executive director, Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai, UAE alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Lynn Ang, senior lecturer, University of East London, the sponsor. UK Sofia Avgitidou, associate professor, University of During construction of the Index and research for Western Macedonia, Greece this white paper the EIU interviewed a number of Tony Bertram, director, Centre for Research in Early experts from across the world—including early Childhood, UK childcare experts, academics, NGOs, preschool Josephine Bleach, director, Early Learning Initiative practitioners, and policy specialists—who are National College of Ireland listed below. We would like to thank them all for Stig Brostrom, associate professor, Danish University their time. of Education Donna Bryant, principal investigator and senior For their time and advice throughout this project, scientist, Frank Porter Graham Child Development we would like to extend our special thanks to Institute, US Professor Sharon Kagan at Columbia University in Christine Chen, founder and president, Association For Early Childhood Educators (AECES), Singapore the US and Professor Christine Pascal at the Centre for Research in Early Childhood in the UK. Peter Chiu, professor, Taipei Municipal University of Education, Taiwan James Watson was the author of the report and Chua Hui Ling, president, Singapore Committee of OMEP (World Organisation for Early Childhood Sudhir Vadaketh was the editor. Kim Thomas Education) assisted with research, interviews and case Gordon Cleveland, senior lecturer, University of studies. The Index was devised and constructed Toronto Scarborough, Canada by an EIU research team led by Trisha Suresh and Sven Coppens, programme director, Plan Manoj Vohra. Gaddi Tam was responsible for design International, Vietnam and layout. The cover image is by David Simonds. Alejandra Cortazar Valdes, researcher, early childhood development, Centro de Microdatos, University of Chile2 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012
  4. 4. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the worldCarmen Dalli, director, Institute for Early Childhood Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, NewZealandDerya Dostlar, early childhood development expert, UNICEF, TurkeyNina Era, professor, Miriam College, PhilippinesMetaporn Feungtanuch, education manager, Plan International, ThailandSiobhan Fitzpatrick, CEO, Early Years, Northern IrelandAdriana Friedmann, founder, Alliance for Childhood, BrazilMartha Friendly, executive director, Child Care, CanadaCynthia Goldbarg, education, leadership and training specialist, World Organisation for Early ChildhoodEducation, ArgentinaRebecca Gomez, graduate research fellow, National Center for Children and Families, USSoumya Guha, program manager, Plan International, IndiaBirgit Hartel, doctoral student, University of Vienna, AustriaNoirín Hayes, professor, Institute of Technology, Dublin, IrelandKirsten Johansen Horrigmo, professor, University of Agder, NorwayBente Jensen, associate professor, Aarhus University, Copenhagen, DenmarkChiam Heng Keng, president, Early Childhood and Care Education Council, MalaysiaAnna Kienig, senior lecturer, University of Bialystok, PolandEva Laloumi-Vidali, professor, Alexandrio Technological Institution of Thessaloniki, GreeceHui Li, assistant professor, University of Hong Kong, Hong KongMaelis Karlsson Lohmander, senior lecturer, University of Gothenburg, SwedenSachiko Kitano, associate professor, Graduate School of Human Development and Environment, KobeUniversity, JapanMaria Thereza Marcilio, academic, Rede Nacional Primeira Infância, BrazilSri Marpinjun, early childhood development specialist, Plan International, IndonesiaHelen May, professor, University of Otago, New ZealandJunko Miyahara, coordinator, Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood, SingaporeThomas Moser, professor, Vestfold University College, NorwayFioni Murray, research and evaluation director, Khululeka Community Education Development Centre,South AfricaRobert Myers, independent consultant, MexicoKwi-Ok Nah, professor, Soonchunhyang University, South KoreaMeena Narula, program manager, Plan International, IndiaNg Soo Boon, head, ECCE Sector, Ministry of Education, MalaysiaPamela Oberhuemer, researcher, State Institute of Early Childhood Research, GermanyAyla Oktay, professor, Maltepe University, TurkeyPeter Engelbrekt Petersen, research consultant, Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators,DenmarkKonstantinos Petrogiannis, associate professor of developmental psychology, Democritus University ofThrace, Greece © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 3
  5. 5. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world Frances Press, senior lecturer, Charles Sturt University, Australia Lara Ragpot, lecturer, University of Johannesburg, South Africa Nirmala Rao, professor and developmental psychologist, University of Hong Kong Nichara Ruangdaraganon, doctor, Mahidol University, Thailand Pasi Sahlberg, director general, Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation, adjunct professor at Universities of Helsinki and Oulu, Finland Larry Schweinhart, president, HighScope Foundation, US Deborah Stipek, professor, Stanford University, US Clodie Tal, head, Department of Early Education, Levinsky College of Education, Israel Collette Tayler, professor, chair of Early Childhood Education and Care, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Australia Mami Umayahara, programme cycle management specialist, UNESCO, Thailand Michel Vandenbroeck, professor, Ghent University, Belgium Leonardo Yanez, programme officer, Latin America Bernard Van Leer Foundation, Brazil Jing Zhou, professor, East China Normal University4 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012
  6. 6. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world Executive summaryConsciously setting aside a time to stimulate programs save society significant amounts ofyoung children’s development is a relatively new money over time. Early childhood contributes tophenomenon. Until the 1980s, preschools in most creating the kinds of workforces that are going tocountries were largely focussed on providing be needed in the twenty-first century.”simple child minding.1 But as economies shifttowards more knowledge-based activities, There are also broader reasons to invest inawareness about child development—the need preschool. At one level, it helps facilitate greaterto improve their social awareness, confidence female participation in the workforce, whichand group interaction skills, and to prepare them bolsters economic growth. Early childhoodfor starting primary education—continues to development is also a major force in helpinggrow. Nevertheless, policymakers still give most overcome issues relating to child poverty andattention to the tertiary, secondary and primary educational disadvantage.2 “It is about thoselevels of education, in descending order of very young children who are going to grow up asimportance, with the least focus given to the early successful lifelong learners and citizens making anyears of child development. economic contribution to society,” says Christine Pascal, director of the Centre for Research inThis is a missed opportunity as preschools can Early Childhood (CREC), an independent researchhelp ensure that all children get a strong start organisation. “This is especially so in very unequalin life, especially those from low-income or societies where you get generational and cyclicaldisadvantaged households. “The data are really repetition of poverty and low achievement.”incontrovertible,” explains Sharon Kagan, aprofessor of early childhood and family policy at Against this backdrop, the Economist IntelligenceColumbia University in the US. “Three strands of Unit (EIU) was commissioned by the Lien 1 Preschool in three cultures:research combine to support the importance of Foundation, a Singapore-based philanthropic Japan, China and the Unitedthe early years. From neuro-scientific research, organisation, to devise an index to rank preschool States, Joseph Tobin, Davidwe understand the criticality of early brain provision across 45 countries, encompassing the Wu, Dana Davidson, Yale University Press, 1991development; from social science research, we OECD and major emerging markets. At its core, theknow that high quality programmes improve Starting Well Index assesses the extent to which 2 ”Starting Strong II: Earlychildren’s readiness for school and life; and from these governments provide a good, inclusive childhood education andeconometric research, we know that high quality early childhood education (ECE) environment for care”, OECD, 2006 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 5
  7. 7. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world children between the ages of three and six. In l A well-defined preschool curriculum, along with particular, it considers the relative availability, clear health and safety standards. affordability and quality of such preschool l Clear parental involvement and outreach. environments. (See the report appendix for a full methodology; and the Terms and definitions box l A broad socioeconomic environment that at the end of this chapter for explanation on what ensures that children are healthy and well- “preschool” encompasses.) nourished when they enter preschool. To accompany this data-driven research, the Many high-income countries rank poorly, despite EIU interviewed experts around the world and wealth being a major factor in a country’s ability reviewed existing research to assess major to deliver preschool services. Australia, Canada, developments, obtain guidance on good practices, Singapore and the US, for example, are all listed and highlight key issues to address. Among the key in the lower half of the Index, despite having findings of the research are as follows: high average per-capita incomes.3 This is not to suggest that quality preschool programmes are The Nordic countries perform best at preschool, lacking in these countries. But such schemes are and European countries dominate the rankings. not available or affordable to all strands of society, Finland, Sweden and Norway top the Index, while minimum quality standards vary widely. As thanks to sustained, long-term investments and economies increasingly compete on the quality of prioritisation of early childhood development, their human capital, policymakers need to ensure which is now deeply embedded in society. In that all children get the best possible preparation general, Europe’s state-led systems perform well, for primary school. as the provision of universal preschool has steadily become a societal norm. This trend continues Several countries punch above their weight, to develop. Ireland introduced a universal free delivering widespread preschool services, year of preschool in 2010, for example, despite despite having lower average per-capita incomes chronic budgetary difficulties. In general, the relative to their peers. Despite budgetary leading countries in this Index have the following challenges, a number of other countries, such elements in place for their preschool systems: as Chile and the Czech Republic, have made l A comprehensive early childhood development significant efforts to ensure preschool provision and promotion strategy, backed up with a legal for all families, including instituting it as a legal right to such education. right. Even though significant further work is needed to bolster preschool standards in these l Universal enrolment of children in at least a countries, they have made laudable gains in year of preschool at ages five or six, with nearly ensuring at least a minimum level of provision for universal enrolment between the ages of three and all. For emerging countries seeking to improve five. their innovative potential, they need to ensure l Subsidies to ensure access for underprivileged that as many children as possible have a strong families. start in life. This is a crucial first step as they seek to transform their economies from low to high l Where provision is privatised, the cost of such value-add activities.3 All incomes in this Index care is affordable relative to average wages.are measured on a per- l A high bar for preschool educators, with specific Public sector spending cuts pose a major threatcapita basis, in purchasingpower parity. See terms and qualification requirements. This is often backed up to preschools, especially among recent adopters.definitions box for more with commensurate wages, as well as low student- Just as the logic of ECE is becoming increasinglydetail. teacher ratios. widespread, preschool provision is threatened by6 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012
  8. 8. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the worldpolicymakers battling to rein in deficits. This is the main drivers of preschool education quality.especially true within countries where preschool Experts from around the world highlight theprovision is not yet a societal norm, although importance of a high-quality system in ensuringEuropean countries will also struggle to maintain good overall outcomes from preschool education,spending amidst widespread budget cuts. The not least to distinguish it from simple childcare.threats come despite a growing body of research, The factors defining quality are widespread,which suggests that increased government from high training standards and well-definedinvestment in early childhood development, if guidelines to ensuring parental involvement too.directed well, can result in annual returns ranging Other factors can help too: reducing student-from 8% to 17%, which largely accrue to wider teacher ratios in classes; ensuring good health andsociety.4 Such returns come from the reduced need safety measures; and creating clear links betweenfor later remedial education and spending, as well preschool and primary school, to name just a lower crime and less welfare reliance in laterlife, among other things. A more globalised world requires greater integration of children in the classroom...Much basic progress is still required. While Increased global migration in recent decadesmany countries lack the financial and human has resulted in a rise in the number of immigrantcapital resources to establish a rounded, universal children entering the educational systems in manypreschool environment, far too many still fail countries. While the UK, for example, laudablyto take even the first steps. At the very least, includes all children within its preschool provision,countries can still provide guidelines and quality regardless of citizenship status, other countriesstandards, even if these cannot yet be properly do far less—for instance, not providing subsidiesenforced. Among wealthier countries that are to non-citizens. As many societies face the needmaking considerable steps towards quality to adjust to increasing diversity, better preschooluniversal provision, many have yet to enforce even integration can help ensure greater societala minimum level of preschool as a legal right for integration.children. …But globalisation also poses a risk toAffordability of preschool is typically worst countries that rush to adopt curriculums fromin those countries where availability is most other countries, without adapting them for theirlimited. As simple economics would suggest, those local cultures and traditions. It is all too easy forcountries with the lowest availability of preschool countries to adopt each other’s curriculums andare also the ones where it is most expensive. This guidelines today. While many good practices canhits lower-income countries hard. In China, the indeed be shared, experts caution that countries 4 “Early childhoodleast affordable country in this Index, preschools need to ensure that they cherish and promote development: Economicin Beijing charge monthly fees up to six times as their unique individual cultures. New Zealand and development with a highmuch as a top university. In general, as preschool South Korea, for example, both make great efforts public return”, Art Rolnickprovision becomes more widely available in a to promote and accentuate their local cultures. In and Rob Grunewald, December 2003 and “Thecountry, it also tends to become more affordable. some places, such as Northern Ireland, this can rate of return to the High/ form an important facet of the transition from Scope Perry PreschoolEnsuring a high standard of teacher training and past conflict or civil strife, by promoting greater Program”, James Heckman,education, setting clear curriculum guidelines, respect of contrasting views and cultures in a et al, Institute for the Studyand ensuring parental involvement are some of society. of Labor, October 2009 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 7
  9. 9. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world Terms and definitions Defining preschool Defining quality and inclusiveness Definitions and terminology relating to This report discusses both the quality and preschool vary significantly from one region the inclusiveness of countries’ preschool to another: kindergarten, playgroups, pre-K, environments. These are both broad terms, but and nursery schools, to name a few, with we focus on specific aspects of these: many specific regional variations. All of these are taken to be part of early childhood Quality: This does not in any way relate to the education, or ECE, and so this study refers to specific pedagogical approaches taken within both preschool and ECE interchangeably. This preschools, or seek to prejudge which of these study focuses on children between the ages of are best. Instead, our quality measures relate three and six. This is not to detract from the to the aggregate national indicators of quality, importance of the vital years from birth to such as the overall level of training of teachers, three, but it represents the critical years when the presence of clear curriculum guidelines, children move from predominantly home- and so on. These are detailed in the appendix. based care and start to interact in a group environment with specific learning targets, Inclusiveness: This Index assumes that all in preparation for the first grade of primary children, regardless of their background, school. legal status and ability to pay, have a right to affordable, quality preschool provision. But use For the underlying rankings that this report is of the term inclusiveness does not imply that based on, to ensure objective comparability, this ranking considers issues around disability we used the term ‘preschool’ to refer to ISCED 0 and special needs, as comparable data on such (UNESCO’s International Standard Classification provision is largely unavailable. of Education as per the 1997 definition) programmes. These programmes are defined as Defining income levels the initial stage of organised instruction and This report refers to low-income, middle- meet the following criteria: income and high-income countries, for ease • The curriculum must have ‘educational’ of analysis and interpretation of results. These properties income bandings are set relative to the income levels of the 45 countries in this Index, rather • The programme must be school or centre- than stricter classifications set by agencies based such as the World Bank. All are measured on • The minimum age of children for whom this a per-capita basis in purchasing power parity is designed is three years old, and the upper terms. High-income countries are taken to limit the entry to ISCED 1 (primary school) mean those with average incomes of more than US$30,000 per annum (25 countries in total); • Where applicable, staff are required to have middle-income ones are those with US$10,000 some pedagogical credentials – US$30,000 per annum (13 countries); and low-income are those with less than US$10,000 per annum (7 countries).8 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012
  10. 10. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world IntroductionThe importance of starting wellCompared with education in general, preschools and promotion of ECE.5 One of its widely citedare a new arrival. Most point to Europe for the declarations is: “Learning begins at birth. Thisfirst examples of institutions dedicated to the calls for early childhood care and initial education.development of young children. Johann Friedrich These can be provided through arrangementsOberlin, a pastor, set up one of the first known involving families, communities, or institutionalexamples in 1767, in Waldersbach, France, programmes as appropriate.”encouraging three- and four-year-olds to attend. A follow-up conference in 2000, in Dakar, Senegal,In 1837, the German Friedrich Fröbel coined the has seen the further recognition of ECE in manyterm kindergarten for a play and activity institute countries around the world, with a drive to expandhe created that year, with the premise being that such services. However, preschool programmeschildren should be taken care of and nourished still vary widely from country to country today:like plants in a garden. The nineteenth century from widespread state-led provision in some, toin general saw the emergence of the first early more limited private-sector offerings in others.childhood education (ECE) centres in many Furthermore, while primary and secondarycountries, including China and India. educational systems are often compared acrossProgress was relatively slow until the 1960s, when countries, especially in terms of educationalfemale participation in the workforce climbed outcomes, little such attention is given to thesharply in many countries, along with more preschool environment as yet.extensive child development policies. The US,for example, introduced its first publicly funded Ranking preschoolspreschool programme, entitled Head Start, in To overcome this deficit, and to measure the1964. But the watershed moment appears to variability of national preschool systems on a 5 “A global history of earlyhave been the first UNESCO World Conference on like-for-like basis, the Economist Intelligence childhood education andEducation for All in 1990, in Jomtien, Thailand. Unit (EIU) compiled this Index. It allows for the care”, Sheila Kamerman,This initiated a new stage in the development ranking of 45 countries, across the OECD and major UNESCO, 2006 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 9
  11. 11. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the worldIndex snapshot: Overview of key indicators and weightings emerging markets, on the basis of their overallSee appendix for full details preschool environment. It relies on a combinationMain categories Weight % of quantitative statistical data from each country, Social context 5 as well as unique qualitative assessments. The Availability 25 underlying aim is to measure the extent to Affordability 25 which such systems are available to all children, Quality 45 affordable for all families, and of a high quality. (See Index snapshot here for a summary of keyIndicators Weight % indicators and weightings, or the report appendix Social context 5 for a full breakdown of the methodology.) Malnutrition prevalence 20 Social context matters too: countries such as Under-5 mortality rate 20 India or South Africa are clearly preoccupied with Immunisation rate, DPT 20 pressing issues of child mortality and welfare, for Gender inequality index 20 example. But although this context is crucial, it Adult literacy rate 20 is given a nominal weighting in this Index, which focuses more on the supply-side that policymakers Availability 25 can influence. An underlying assumption is that Preschool enrolment ratio, pre-primary age (1 year) at 5 or 6 years 20 it is not sufficient to just have a high-quality Preschool enrolment ratio, relevant age-group 20 preschool environment—it must be inclusive. Early childhood development and promotion strategy 35 Legal right to preschool education 25 All this raises many deep questions, such as what constitutes high quality? As a later chapter details, Affordability 25 this Index considers a range of factors, from the Cost of a private preschool programme 15 amount of training teachers have through to Government pre-primary education spending 25 the involvement of parents. The Index does not, Subsidies for underprivileged families 30 however, try to judge which actual classroom Subsidies for preschool aimed at including underprivileged child 30 methods and approaches are best. Many exist— Montessori, HighScope, Bank Street, Waldorf and Quality 45 Reggio Emilia, to name just a few—and all of these can be compatible with high quality preschool Student-teacher ratio in preschool classrooms 5 environments, providing certain foundational Average preschool teacher wages 15 criteria are met. Curriculum guidelines 15 Preschool teacher training 20 This report highlights parts of the world where Health and safety guidelines 10 the preschool provision is best, with related case Data collection mechanisms 10 studies and insights into what is being done to Linkages between preschool and primary school 10 improve the availability, affordability and quality Parental involvement and education programmes 15 of these environments.10 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012
  12. 12. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world 1 The Starting Well IndexEurope dominates the Index, taking all but four world’s attention from an investment and growthof the top 20 positions. This is of little surprise: perspective, perform poorly is culturally and politically accepted in Europethat the government will assume a significant role India ranks last overall, behind other countriesin delivering preschool education. Investment such as Ghana (40th), the Philippines (43rd)stretches back decades, helping ensure good and Indonesia (44th), with a combination ofavailability and affordability, with typically high limited availability, the lowest overall quality,quality. and relatively high costs. This is partly related to the fact that India faces the toughest socialThe Nordic countries do especially well, taking conditions: high rates of child malnutritionfour of the top six places. In many respects, and child mortality, combined with low rates ofthese countries have been dealt an easy hand: literacy and immunisation. All countries facethey have relatively high average incomes, fairly difficult decisions regarding how to allocatehomogenous populations, and a well-defined and scarce resources towards child development, butlong-accepted role for the state. Nevertheless, Chart: Overall ranking versus GDP per capita (PPP)they have also made significant efforts to entrench 100the importance of preschool education. Forexample, the status afforded to teachers usually 90matches other respected professions, with 80commensurate qualifications and wages. 70The wealth factor 60 Overall scoreIn general, and perhaps not surprisingly, poorer 50countries do worse than rich ones. There is a 40strong correlation between a country’s incomeper person and its overall ranking. Within Europe, 30for example, middle-income countries such 20as Hungary (22nd), Greece (27th) and Poland 10(31st) lag their wealthier neighbours. Worldwide,lower-income countries dominate the lower half 0 0 10,000 20,000 30,000 40,000 50,000 60,000 70,000of the rankings. In particular, China (42nd) and GDP per capita (PPP)India (45th), two countries capturing much of the Source: EIU Starting Well Index © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 11
  13. 13. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the worldOverall score these are especially pressing in India. It is worth to bolster educational requirements for preschool 1 Finland 91.8 highlighting, however, that a low performance teachers. Chile outranks both Canada and the US, 2 Sweden 91.7 does not necessarily represent a lack of effort. “We thanks to significant efforts to ensure relatively 3 Norway 88.9 have very, very poor countries who are very much high levels of affordable preschool provision. But 4 UK 87.9 aware and would put this as a first national priority Chile struggles with the quality of its provision. 5 Belgium 84.7 but don’t have the resources to do so,” notes Despite having clear eligibility criteria in place, 6 Denmark 83.5 Columbia University’s Dr Kagan. there are limited curriculum guidelines and low 7 France 81.0 average wages for teachers, for example. 8 Netherlands 75.6 Despite wealth being a major factor, it is certainly 9 New Zealand 73.9 not the only determinant. Many high-income Unfortunately for parents in emerging markets, 10 South Korea 72.5 countries, including Japan (21st), the US and UAE this Index highlights that the affordability of 11 Germany 71.9 (joint 24th), Canada (26th) and Australia (28th), 12 Austria 70.9 preschool programmes improves in line with do relatively poorly. Some, such as Australia, 13 Switzerland 69.9 a country’s per-capita income. The wealthier are in the midst of major policy reforms that will 14 Spain 69.1 a country is, the more likely it is to provide an probably see them climb in future rankings. But 15 Portugal 68.7 affordable preschool environment. As such, others highlight how a lack of policy attention 16 Italy 68.4 low-income countries host the most expensive 17 Czech Republic 68.1 can hinder progress: Japan has a high quality preschool places. In many respects, this reflects 18 Ireland 67.4 preschool programme, but does not back this the market at work: most parents in all countries 19 Hong Kong 66.2 up with a legal right to such education, for want access to preschools, but when supply 20 Chile 63.6 example (see next chapter for a further discussion does not meet demand, for-profit providers 21 Japan 63.5 on a legal right). In some federally managed emerge to fill the gap. This further exacerbates 22 Hungary 61.6 countries, such as Australia or the US, where 23 Israel 61.0 the exclusion of low-income households, not there are stronger roles for individual states,=24 UAE 60.3 least as preschools often act as a crucial source their poor overall rankings mask the fact that=24 USA 60.3 of nutrition for children in many countries. both host world-leading preschools. However, the 26 Canada 59.9 This amplifies the overall impact of preschool in availability and affordability of these vary widely, 27 Greece 59.4 low-income communities: as UNESCO highlights, 28 Australia 59.1 and quality is not consistent. malnourished children are more likely to start 29 Singapore 58.8 school late, drop out earlier, and achieve poorer 30 Taiwan 58.4 Balancing quality, availability and learning outcomes.6 31 Poland 56.1 affordability 32 Mexico 50.5 Indeed, between the highest and lowest ranked 33 Russia 49.9 countries, there are some surprising outcomes. On the next three pages, we describe the 34 Argentina 43.0 Despite having a lower per capita GDP, Greece preschool environment in Finland, the top-ranked 35 Turkey 39.9 outperforms both Australia and Singapore, thanks country, and illustrate elements found in top 36 Malaysia 39.4 preschool environments across the world. in part to significant efforts over the past decade 37 South Africa 38.8 38 Thailand 37.9 39 Brazil 35.1 40 Ghana 34.3 41 Vietnam 31.3 42 China 30.7 43 Philippines 30.5 44 Indonesia 22.1 45 India 21.26 “Education for All GlobalMonitoring Report”,UNESCO, 201212 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012
  14. 14. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the worldCase study: Lessons from Finland’s preschoolIn Finland, preschool refers to a year of free All this helps Finland take a light touch whenhalf-day classes for six-year-olds, which is it comes to testing and monitoring, given thecomplemented with day care for the other half strong institutional trust in teachers. “This isof the day. This builds on a programme that why we have been deliberately staying awaygives parents access to full-day childcare from from the unnecessary standardised testing,birth till the age of six, at a capped cost. The or unnecessary external inspection of ouroverall system has been developed since the schools,” explains Dr Pasi Sahlberg, a Finnish1960s to support the participation of women education expert and director general ofin the workforce. Today, it incorporates a range Finland’s Centre for International Mobility andof rights for children: all have legal access to Cooperation. It also allows Finland to delegatechildcare, comprehensive healthcare, and local authority over curriculum planning to teachers.preschools. Indeed, trust is so high that this in turn can raise new challenges: Dr Sahlberg notes thatTo ensure quality, Finland has systematically more work is needed to educate parents aboutdeveloped teaching as a professional career. their own responsibilities in raising children,Teachers have to attain high university lest they assume that teachers will do it all.qualifications: all have a three-or four-yearbachelor’s degree in education, while many Index scorescomplete a master’s degree (from primary level SOCIAL CONTEXTon, a master’s degree is required). Studies are 100 Finlandtypically academic research-based courses at 75 Index average 50high-end universities, with detailed courses 25on curriculum planning and design, as well as QUALITY 0 AVAILABILITYleadership. Teachers are accorded the samerespect as other professionals, such as lawyers,with comparable working conditions. Wages aregood—although by no means the highest among AFFORDABILITYthe countries in this Index—and class ratios arelow with an average of 11 pupils per teacher. © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 13
  15. 15. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world Elements of top early childhood education environments Comprehensive and Clear legal right to Effective subsidies that Student teacher ratio Well-trained teachers in Parental involvement At least 98% of Well-defined curriculum Healthy, nourished children Overall rank Country effective ECD strategy preschool education reach underprivileged families under 15 early childhood education in preschools preschoolers enroled at age 5/6 and health and safety standards coming into the system 1 Finland 2 Sweden 3 Norway 4 UK 5 Belgium 6 Denmark 7 France 8 Netherlands 9 New Zealand 10 South Korea 11 Germany 12 Austria 13 Switzerland 14 Spain 15 Portugal 16 Italy 17 Czech Republic 18 Ireland 19 Hong Kong 20 Chile 21 Japan 22 Hungary 23 Israel 24 UAE 24 USA 26 Canada 27 Greece 28 Australia 29 Singapore 30 Taiwan 31 Poland 32 Mexico 33 Russia 34 Argentina 35 Turkey 36 Malaysia 37 South Africa 38 Thailand 39 Brazil 40 Ghana 41 Vietnam 42 China 43 Philippines 44 Indonesia 45 India Source: The Starting Well Index. Note: Graphics represent normalised scores in each category, where a full circle represents the highest among all scores for that category and an empty circle the lowest.14 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 15
  16. 16. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world 2 Availability The first pillar of this Index measures the Belgium tops the list in terms of availability. availability of preschool for families. One aspect Children there have the right to attend free of this is simply the legal right for children to get preschool from the age of two and a half. It is not preschool education for at least one year prior to compulsory, but attendance is nearly universal. primary school (see box on next page). The main Many preschools share facilities with primary aim here is to ensure that the rights of young schools, which also helps with the transition children are not overlooked, but are increasingly between the two. Of course, Belgium is also a entrenched within society. This has steadily relatively small, homogenous and wealthy society, improved in terms of rights around primary and which eases the provision of ECE. Such factors secondary education, but many countries omit certainly matter: in countries such as South Africa, preschool education as part of this. In countries the physical distance of a preschool from homes such as China, Japan and the UAE, as well as many can be a major practical deterrent, for example. US states, such legislation is currently absent. A further aspect to consider is what widespread Even without having the right to a preschool availability means in practical terms. In the UK, education enshrined in law, most countries for example, positive progress has been made recognise the need to try and provide preschool. in creating universal free access to preschools. While the absence of a legal right slows the However, three- and four-year-olds are entitled process of making preschool an expected societal to just 15 hours per week, usually offered as five7 Three-year-olds in the UK norm, many governments have at least set out three-hour classes.7 “Fifteen hours per week is lowhave a legal entitlement to a strategy for doing so. As such, a bigger aspect in terms of what happens certainly in other parts15 hours free early education of this Index relates to the comprehensiveness of Europe and even in places like the developingwhich is generally offered as of such strategies in terms of the vision, goals world in Latin America,” says Siobhan Fitzpatrick,three-hour slots, five daysa week, and often linked to and objectives of preschool education, the CEO of Early Years, an organisation for younga childcare place which can effectiveness of implementation, and degree to children in Northern Ireland. “In other countries,make for a full day. The vast which this is updated and reviewed. Although there is a recognition that to really effect change,majority of four-year-olds are some of these factors lean into the area of quality, especially for the most vulnerable children, youin free full day educational this is the clearest way to measure whether a need a depth of coverage and a much longer day.”provision which is usuallyin the reception class of a government is engaged in trying to ensure thatprimary school but comes its preschool environment is actually linked to Towards greater inclusivenessunder the preschool system society’s demands. The research findings suggest there is a need to16 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012
  17. 17. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world Legal right 2) Availability 1 Belgium 25% 99.7 2 Norway 98.6 One of the key indicators in this Index is the question about whether there is even a need for 3 UK 97.7 “legal right” to preschool education, defined legislation. Also, it is worth noting that in some here as the presence and effectiveness of countries, such as the US, there remains some 4 Sweden 97.5 clear, unambiguous legislation to the right to dissent over the desirability of such legislation, 5 Finland 94.9 preschool education for at least one year. especially from parents who oppose the 6 France 91.3 increased institutionalisation of childhood. 7 Spain 90.5 The right to attend preschool does not imply 8 Germany 88.6 The argument here—reflected in the Index that it is mandatory. It means simply that 9 Denmark 87.0 ranking—is that a legal right is, indeed, governments have an obligation to provide 10 Portugal 85.8 important because it makes governments preschool services to those who want it. 11 South Korea 82.0 accountable. They will have a legal obligation to provide preschool services and will have to set 12 Italy 81.4 A legal right may not be a sufficient condition 13 Ireland 79.8 to guarantee universal access and quality. aside funds to ensure services are accessible to Bureaucratic inefficiencies, corruption and everyone—in the same way they typically do for 14 Chile 77.8 regulatory hurdles, among other things, could primary school. 15 Czech Republic 76.0 16 Austria 75.8 still deny a child his or her right. A legal right is a sign of a long-term, stable 17 Switzerland 75.6 commitment and must be acknowledged. Some countries, such as Japan, have not yet 18 Mexico 74.3 Furthermore, for bigger countries, such a right instituted a legal right to preschool education, could help bring some consistency in approach 19 Hungary 74.0 yet enjoy 100% enrolment. This begs the and delivery at the state- and provincial-level. 20 Netherlands 73.9 21 Canada 70.9 22 Greece 68.5raise awareness around the importance of an lengths here. Dr Cindy Acker, principal of The Child 23 New Zealand 64.7inclusive preschool environment: for all income Unique Montessori School in California, recollects 24 Israel 64.6levels, languages, cultures and backgrounds. preparing for the arrival of a Zimbabwean child 25 Singapore 64.3 who spoke only Shona, her native language. To 26 Hong Kong 60.9This is a greater challenge in some countries than =27 Argentina 59.0others. Vietnam, for example, faces a specific help ensure a comfortable start for the child, the =27 Russia 59.0challenge in terms of language and cultural school arranged a translator to help the child 29 Poland 57.4diversity (see case study). Other countries face settle in and interact. “We’ve learned now that 30 Japan 54.9the challenge of incorporating a large migrant you do a disservice to a child by discounting their 31 USA 54.4population, with both language and cultural mother tongue, as this in turn discounts their 32 Australia 54.3differences. The UK, for example, takes this very family and origins and who they are,” she says. 33 UAE 54.0seriously. “If you are in our country, whether you 34 South Africa 48.6are legal, illegal, temporary or whatever, you are Another aspect of inclusiveness relates to rural 35 Ghana 48.5in the statistics,” says the CREC’s Dr Pascal. “The communities, where provision of preschool 36 Thailand 47.9government has a legal commitment to deliver that facilities is usually far patchier. Centres might 37 Brazil 47.8service.” By contrast, many other countries, such be available but are physically remote. This 38 Vietnam 43.6 can require new governmental collaborations. 39 Taiwan 42.6as Singapore and the UAE, have high immigrant 40 Philippines 40.6populaces, which are often overlooked in terms of In the UK, for example, the Department of 41 Malaysia 35.1preschool provision. Education and Department of Agriculture and 42 China 34.8 Rural Development work together to provide 43 Turkey 33.5There is also a question of how best to incorporate alternative solutions. “They look at innovative 44 India 21.8such differences. Should separate programmes models in a rural community, for example, by not 45 Indonesia 11.5be set up, or should schools find ways to integrate just concentrating on a small age band of threechildren? There is generally strong agreement to five, but thinking about the whole needs of thethat a universal plan and approach leads not only younger children, including wraparound care andto better educational outcomes, but also greater after school, to make preschool viable,” says Mssocietal integration. Some go to significant Fitzpatrick. © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 17
  18. 18. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world Case study: Widening access to preschool in Vietnam Plan International is an NGO that works in Asia, of seven. It has adopted a model that involves Africa and the Americas to tackle child poverty bringing parents into the classroom and and deprivation. In Vietnam, it is taking an assisting the teacher or telling stories in their integrated approach to childhood development maternal language. that focuses on health and sanitation as well as education. Having successfully worked to The biggest issue, says Mr Coppens, is provide universal primary school education, pedagogical: “The Vietnamese education the Vietnamese government is now improving system has traditionally been a top-down access to preschool. Provision is still uneven, system of instruction; rather than seeing so Plan is focusing its efforts on providing education as a transformative power in preschool education to children from remote society.” To get away from the rote learning areas, or less affluent backgrounds. that still predominates, Plan is introducing schoolteachers, managers and district officials It also focuses on the lack of bilingual to more child-centred learning methodologies. education. Sven Coppens, its Vietnam programme director, says that in a country Index scores where 15% of the population comes from over SOCIAL CONTEXT 50 ethnic minority communities, language is a 100 Vietnam major dividing factor. “Officially the language of 75 Index average 50 instruction is Vietnamese, but you have children 25 coming in with another maternal language, and QUALITY 0 AVAILABILITY there is not enough priority given to setting up systems of bilingual education.” Plan targets these ethnic minorities, providing them with instruction in both languages, so that they are AFFORDABILITY fully bilingual by the time they reach the age Inverting the pyramid investments. These returns accrue in part to This Index highlights that few countries today the children themselves—largely in the form of prioritise education spending towards the increased lifetime earnings—but more significantly preschool stage. Budgets typically follow an to the wider society, through reduced costs of inverted pyramid model, with most funding education, increased labour productivity, lower going to secondary and tertiary levels, with welfare payments, and a reduction in crime.10 It is the least to preschool.8 But a growing body of worth noting that the highest rates of return will evidence suggests that greater investment in early be recorded by the most disadvantaged families, childhood development does, in turn, reduce costs given that children in such circumstances typically8 “Education at a glance at later stages of education, for example by cutting receive less family-led support and development.2011: OECD indicators”,OECD, 2011, pp. 230-231 remedial spending and grade repetition. Dr Larry Schweinhart, president of the HighScope9 “Return on investment: The work of Nobel Laureate, Professor James Foundation, a non-profit research and trainingCost vs benefits”, James Heckman, is prominent here, showing that the organisation, points to the example of theHeckman, University of rate of return to investment in human capital Perry Preschool Project. This tested the lifetimeChicago, 2008 development is highest in early years, and drops outcomes of a random group of children randomly “Why early investment10 steadily thereafter.9 His research suggests that assigned to getting quality preschool at agesmatters”, James Heckman, investment into quality ECE offers a typical annual three and four, versus a randomly assigned return of 7-10%, far greater than many other group that did not. Across both sets there was a18 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012
  19. 19. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the worldhigh proportion of low-income and disadvantaged labour force.children. “Some thought that these children werenot ready for education, even kindergarten,” says As all this suggests, the availability of ECE forDr Schweinhart. The beneficial outcomes were all children has an important role to play intracked over decades and included: fewer years in helping to reduce social inequality. For example,remedial special education studies, higher high the European Commission notes that women’sschool graduation rates, lower teenage pregnancy continued engagement with the labour force isrates, reduced likelihood of being jailed, and lower clearly linked to the period before their childrenreliance on state welfare.11 Estimates vary on the turn six.14 This is especially true for immigrantspecific rate of return on this investment, from 8% families, those with low incomes, and single-through to 17%, but all agree that it is significant. parent households. Disadvantaged families standThe best estimate of the return on this investment, to benefit disproportionately from greater accessfrom Professor Heckman and his University of to preschool. This is not only because parents canChicago team, is that society gained seven times work more, but also because preschool betterthe cost of this project from its lifelong effects.12 prepares children for formal education, improving educational outcomes later on in life, andAs public sector budget cutbacks are implemented enhancing their future earning many countries, such benefits deserveconsideration. The impact of the global financial Preschool can also play a simple, but vital, role in 11 “Lifetime Effects: Thecrisis represents the clearest threat to a general providing disadvantaged children with access to HighScope Perry Preschooltrend towards greater availability of preschool nutrition, as noted earlier. Indeed, the World Bank Study through age 40”, Lawrence Schweinhart, etprovision. But cutbacks will not affect countries notes that nutrition interventions at a preschool al, 2005equally. Although European states are under level can lead to measurable improvements insevere pressure, recognition of ECE is so strong a person’s health, cognitive development and 12 “Early childhoodthat preschools are unlikely to be uprooted. educability, not only throughout adolescence, development: EconomicIndeed, prioritising investment here may in turn but even into adulthood.15 In general, this Index development with a highhelp save money down the line. shows a correlation between greater spending on public return”, Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald, preschool education and lower rates of income December 2003 and “TheThe real risk from budget constraints is for inequality. rate of return to the High/countries where ECE is not yet an accepted Scope Perry Preschoolgovernment responsibility. “Country deficits do Tough choices Program”, James Heckman,put early childhood in jeopardy when there is In poorer countries, though, policymakers face et al, Institute for the Studynot a strong value infrastructure that supports it profound challenges in the allocation of scarce of Labor, October 2009durably,” says Dr Kagan. This is clearly apparent in resources. One very real dilemma lies in choosing 13 “The state of preschoolthe US, for example, where budget cuts in many between providing more widespread access to 2011”, National Institute forstates now limit preschool enrolment. During more basic services versus more limited access to Early Education Research,the 2010-11 year, state funding for preschool higher quality services. “This is a very real policy 2011decreased by nearly US$60m, despite the use of dilemma but the countries that are doing well are 14 “Tackling social andstimulus funding.13 This added to further cuts in actually doing both,” says Dr Kagan. In poorer cultural inequalities throughthe prior year, reversing a 10-year trend towards countries, policymakers might put a greater focus early childhood educationgreater expansion of preschool programmes. on health services and parenting programmes, as and care in Europe”,Lower-income households feel this impact most one example. “They’re beginning at the beginning European Commission,acutely, as they are the least likely to be able to and making sure the parents who are with children January 2009afford private care. This hits families in two ways: all the time have stronger understandings of the 15 “Early child development:through lower development of children who cannot fundamentals of early development and early Nutrition”, World Bank,get even minimum access to preschool, and also learning and that the children are healthy and hindering parents’ ability to participate in the physically fit. They have not always manifested DL9AKYWQ70 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 19
  20. 20. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world themselves in centre-based services,” she says. Foundation, an educational institution. “There are very cost effective ways to teach and it can be done Such policy dilemmas affect all countries. Ms in very marginal physical structures.” He notes Fitzpatrick highlights that in the UK, a desire to in particular that more child-centred approaches ensure wider availability of preschool has involved to education do not require major infrastructure other trade-offs, such as accepting teachers investments, yet are “highly effective and work who are “trained at a fairly low level in terms of beautifully in third world countries”. national vocational qualifications”. This is a big issue: “The Heckman research is very clear. It’s Fioni Murray, the director of research and about the quality and generally that’s linked to evaluation at the Khululeka Community Education the competency and confidence of the staff in Development Centre, a South African NGO that settings and their ability in terms of teaching and focuses on increasing access to early childhood supporting young children in an appropriate way,” development, agrees. Operating in conditions she says. of significant poverty, she notes how learning materials can even be improvised from waste, As a general principle, most experts argue that such as cardboard boxes or plastic bottles. “The funding should be prioritised towards human learning happens because the teacher is trained capital development, ahead of infrastructure and on how to help facilitate development in such technology. “It’s not technology that educates environments,” she says. “You can pour equipment children, so while it’s great to have computers and computers into schools as much as you like, and smart-boards, that’s not as important as but to no avail if the appropriate adult-child the relationship between adults and children,” interaction is overlooked.” says Tim Seldin, president of the Montessori20 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012
  21. 21. Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world 3 AffordabilityNo matter how widespread preschool facilities level—a number of preschools in New York, forare, what is crucial is that parents at all income example, charge in excess of US$30,000 perlevels can afford them. This can be done through year—the country is among the more affordablesubsidies directly to disadvantaged families, to for private preschools as a proportion of pergive them funds to secure preschool places for capita income (measured at purchasing powertheir children—or a “demand-side” approach. parity rates).17 The average annual cost of full-Alternatively, subsidies can be given directly day private preschool provision is 18% of perto providers, with specific mandates about the capita income in the US. This is high, but less thanneed to accept all children—or a “supply-side” Switzerland (nearly 23%), the UK (36%), Southstrategy. In practice, countries usually provide Africa (nearly 67%) and Ghana (114%). Of course,both. But while the right to affordable access to this indicator alone doesn’t account for the facteducation for all is strongly enforced at a primary that many countries balance private options withlevel in many countries, this is far less certain for state provision, making private schools an optionpreschool. Accordingly, costs vary widely. for parents, rather than a necessity.In China, for example, it can cost more for a family In general, those countries that are culturally andto send a child to preschool than it does to put him politically willing to recognise the importance of 16 “In China, kindergartenor her through university—a direct consequence ECE are in turn more willing to ensure that such costs more than college”,of limited availability of state schools, and services are affordable for parents. Ireland, for Christian Science Monitor,high costs of private ones. In 2010, tuition and example, introduced one year of free preschool February 23rd 2010accommodation at Peking University, one of the education as of January 2010 despite tough 17 “The most expensivecountry’s best, was about US$102 per month, budgetary considerations. Dr Noirín Hayes, a preschools in New York City”,thanks to government subsidies, whereas leading professor at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Business Insider, Octoberpreschools charged up to US$660 per month.16 cites this as hugely significant in changing the 10th 2011China’s government provides few subsidies for way that preschool is funded and made morepreschool providers and for underprivileged affordable there. “It is the beginning of state 18 The Gini coefficient is a measure of income inequalityfamilies. As a result of all this, China is ranked as involvement in supporting preschool settings on a scale of 0 to 1, where 0the least affordable country in the Index. directly and in enhancing the incentives for represents perfect equality greater quality,” she says. and 1 represents perfectAlthough American preschools rank among inequality, i.e. one personthe most expensive in the world at an absolute By contrast, where state support is limited, (costly) earns all the income © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2012 21