Kathmandu, April 9
The United Nations Children’s Fund, in its first-ever global report exclusively dedicated to early childhood education, has urged the government to invest more in human resources, infrastructure and equitable expansion.
The report, A World Ready to Learn: Prioritising Quality Early Childhood Education, released by the UNICEF today praised Nepal for taking great strides in expanding access to pre-primary education with enrolment rate having increased from 12 per cent in 2000 to 86 per cent in 2017.
It stated that this was one of the fastest improvements in the access to pre-primary education in the last two decades globally, and quoted Nepal among the “high performers” in the world. The country has formally recognised it as part of Nepal’s free and compulsory basic education and has incorporated one year of pre-primary education into law.
The number of early childhood development centres has increased 35 times in 12 years from 1,038 in 2003 to 35,991 in 2015.
According to a nationwide survey conducted in 2014, children aged 3 to 5 years attending early childhood education programmes in Nepal were 17 times more likely to be on track in their early literacy and numeracy skills even after excluding the effects of numerous socio-economic factors.
However, rapid expansion of early childhood education programmes has not always been accompanied by quality in many countries, including Nepal.
Nepal’s national education budget allocates less than three per cent to pre-primary education, which is inadequate to ensure quality early childhood care and education services including development of a national minimum standards, construction of necessary infrastructure and improvement of the capacity of human resources engaged in early childhood development services. Nepal spends US$14 per pre-primary-age child annually compared with US$26 for Tanzania, US$25 for Zimbabwe and US$24 for Tajikistan from the government’s budget, reads the report.
In the report, UNICEF urged all the governments in the world to commit at least 10 per cent of their national education budgets to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of education by 2030. “Nepal has made great progress in expanding early childhood education through an increasing number of children. At the same time, it can do more by substantially improving its quality for all children regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. We must ensure that no child is left behind so that we can walk the talk on ‘leaving no one behind’ principle of the SDGs,” states UNICEF Representative to Nepal, Tomoo Hozumi.
A version of this article appears in print on April 10, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.