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Few countries offer free early childhood education, study

Few governments make pre-primary education available on a tuition-free basis for two or more years.

Early childhood education especially benefits children from low-income families. Children learn to engage better with other children and adults. They are known to have a reduced need for special education instruction in elementary school and beyond.

A new study by the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s WORLD Policy Analysis Center (WORLD) suggests that few governments make pre-primary education available on a tuition-free basis for two or more years.

For this study at WORLD, scientists surveyed information about pre-essential education approaches from 166 nations for which such data was accessible starting in 2015. The scientists revealed that 45 percent of the nations give somewhere around one year of educational cost-free pre-essential training. Only 27 percent of the nations offer at least two years. Just 19 percent give educational cost-free pre-essential instruction and make it necessary.

Scientists also looked at whether making pre-primary education free is associated with higher enrollment rates. They analyzed data from the 124 countries for which pre-primary enrollment data were available.

They found that nations offering one year of tuition-free pre-primary education had a normal of 16 percent higher pre-primary enlistment rates as contrasted with countries without tuition-free pre-primary education.

The study found that the tuition-free pre-primary education differs by income level. Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of high-income countries make tuition-free pre-primary education available for at least one year as compared with 45 percent of middle-income countries and just 15 percent of low-income countries.

Availability also varies by region. In the Americas, for example, 75 percent of countries make tuition-free pre-primary education available while 70 percent of European and Central Asian countries do. In contrast, 25 percent of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, 19 percent in East Asia and the Pacific, 17 percent in South Asia and 14 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa offer it.

The study is expected to be used by policymakers to assess how much progress is being made in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.2.

The study was led by Natalia Milovantseva, a former post-doctoral scholar at WORLD and currently an associate professor at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Russia, and co-authored by Alison Earle and Dr. Jody Heymann, founding director of WORLD and a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. It will be published in the December 2018 issue of International Organisations Research Journal.

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