Pre-primary education

Last update: June 2022 | Next update: June 2023

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 childs 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 28 percentage points in the last 20 years, from 33 per cent in 2000 to 61 per cent in 2020. 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 was still out of school. Over the past decade, the number of out-of-school children in this age group decreased from 38 million in 2010 to 33 million in 2020. However, most of this improvement occurred in the 4 years between 2010 and 2013, when the number fell from 38 million to 33 million – between 2014 and 2020, it remained stagnant. 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. Without immediate action, the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic can further negatively impact pre-primary attendance. 


Pre-primary education data

Notes on the Data

Definition of indicators

Gross pre-primary enrolment rate  Number of children enrolled in pre-primary school, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official pre-primary school age. 

Out-of-school children population, one year before primary school entry age  Total number of children who are one year younger than the official age of primary education and who are not enrolled in pre-primary or primary education. 

Adjusted net attendance rate, one year before primary school  Percentage of children one year younger than the official age of primary education who attend pre-primary or primary education.