Current status + progress
Pre-primary education is critical for establishing a solid foundation for a child‘s social, emotional and overall well-being. The early years of a child‘s life build the basis for lifelong growth, and children who fall behind in these early years often never catch up with their peers, leaving them more likely to drop out of school and fail to reach their full potential. Though there are varying standards, pre-primary educational programmes are typically designed for children 3 to 5 years of age.
Access to pre-primary education has increased globally, but many children still haven’t been reached
Globally, the gross pre-primary enrolment rate increased by 27 percentage points in the last 19 years, from 34 per cent in 2000 to 61 per cent in 2019. Despite this progress, as of 2019, there were at least 175 million children aged 3 to 6 years old who were not enrolled in school, according to a UNICEF global report on early childhood education. Looking at children aged one year younger than the official starting age for primary school in their country, one in four children around the world were still out of school. Over the past decade, the number of out-of-school children in this age group decreased from 44 million in 2010 to 35 million in 2019. However, most of this improvement occurred in the 5 years between 2010 and 2014, when the number fell from 44 million to 37 million – between 2015 and 2019, it only decreased by 2 million. Reasons for this slowed pace of improvement likely include rapid population growth, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as an increase in emergencies and humanitarian crises. These data predate the COVID-19 disruption, and without immediate action, the additional challenges posed by the pandemic can further negatively impact pre-primary attendance.