Investing in Quality Early Learning to Combat the Global Learning Crisis

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Investing in Quality Early Learning to Combat the Global Learning Crisis

This virtual event, convened by the World Bank, launched the Quality Early Learning: Nurturing Children’s Potential volume to highlight the importance of investing in quality early childhood education (ECE),  the key ingredients of an effective ECE strategy, and the unique window of opportunity that many low- and middle- income countries have right now to establish quality and equitable ECE while access is still relatively low, while building systems that can ensure quality as ECE access grows.

After opening remarks from World Bank Group Chief Economist for Human Development, Norbert Schady, the event featured an introductory video to bring to life the importance of quality ECE. Next, the volume’s editors presented a brief overview and key messages from the volume.

This was followed by an expert and policy panel bringing together policymakers, researchers, funders and practitioners, who will share their experiences on working to improve quality ECE, including the challenges and successes they are facing across countries to build an effective and equitable ECE system over time, and how to prioritize interventions and investments in the short to medium term. The event concluded with closing remarks by Omar Arias, World Bank Group Manager for Global Knowledge and Innovation.

[Amanda Devercelli]

Hello, everybody. Welcome to today's event. We're thrilled you could join us. My name is Amanda Devercelli. I'm the Global Lead for Early Childhood Development at the World Bank, and also one of the Co-Editors of today's volume. Today, we are launching an exciting new piece of work called Quality Early Learning, Nurturing Children's Potential. It's a volume that brings together some of the world's leading academic experts and implementation experts. The idea is to bring together these leading researchers and experts from an array of disciplines to provide evidence-based, cost-effective, and actionable strategies for delivering quality early childhood education, at scale in low and middle-income countries. Now that sounds like a mouthful because those are a lot of different objectives, but we've had a really spectacular group of thinkers and partners on this work today, and you're going to hear from many of them.

Then we will be following up this event with some regional events and some other events, which are more specifically focused on some of the key themes of the volume. Without further ado, I'll just run you through the program today, we're going to begin with a short video, then we're going to hear from our Chief Economist of Human Development at the World Bank, then my colleague Magdalena is going to share with you some of the key findings from the volume, and then our dear colleague, Sarah Bouchie from Lego Foundation is going to lead us in a panel discussion and she will introduce the excellent panelists, then we'll hear from our colleague Omar Arias to close us off. If you would like to have interpretation, there is interpretation available today. If you click on the more button at the bottom of your screen, you'll see a little interpretation option, and you can click on that for Spanish or French interpretation. Without further ado, I'm going to hand it back for this short video to play, and then we'll go to Norbert Schady after that. Thanks again for joining us, and we really look forward to sharing today's event with you.

[Video Narrator]

Quality early childhood education is one of the most important investments a country can make to build strong learning foundations for children. Gaps in children's learning emerge when children are little and widen throughout life. High quality and stimulating early learning experiences can address this gap in foundational skills to level the playing field for children with fewer opportunities. Today, too many children do not have access to early childhood education or are enrolled in places that lack the quality to unlock their potential. Access to early childhood education has increased dramatically in the past decades. Today, 62% of children are enrolled in early childhood education worldwide, but in low-income countries, only 20% of children are enrolled, and there are significant inequalities based on socio-economic status, disability, geography, and other factors.

Even when children are enrolled in early childhood education, many are not learning because of low levels of quality. Low access and poor quality early childhood education contributes to the global learning crisis. Today, an estimated 53% of 10 year olds living in low and middle-income countries are unable to read and understand a short text. But actionable and evidence-based strategies are available to deliver quality early learning at scale. The World Bank's new volume, Quality Early Learning, Nurturing Children's Potential, brings together experts in the field of early learning to share the evidence on key elements of quality, early childhood education. Each chapter focuses on a specific topic and features evidence on the best ways to support children's learning and how to facilitate these practices in low and middle income countries

As access to early childhood education grows, many countries have a unique window of opportunity to build systems that ensure quality and equitable early childhood education. All children have enormous capacity to learn during their early years and deserve high quality playful experiences to fulfill their potential. We must nurture their capacity through investments in quality, early childhood education that promote early learning for all.

[Norbert Schady]

Thanks Amanda, for that introduction. Let me just say a few words to introduce this event. I want to start by saying one of the things that the video did in fact, say quite clearly, quote, one of the most important investments a country can make is an early childhood education. I want to underline this because though that is clearly something that those of us who are at this event understand, it is my impression that it's still not something that policymakers in sectors that are not those that deal directly with early childhood development. In particular, for example, policymakers in the ministries of economics and finance in many countries understand. I think we still have a lot of work as a community to show this, to make this case to policymakers. I say this because I recently participated in a number of meetings with ministers of finance in the context of the World Bank Spring Meetings, and I didn't get the sense that universally there was this understanding.

I think it's important that we stress that investments in ECD have large returns and that they can be a great equalizer. Jim Heckman talks about investments in early childhood as pre-distribution, as opposed to redistribution, and I think that's exactly right and we need to keep on making this case. This volume also makes clear, and shows evidence that in developing countries, there is great heterogeneity across countries and within countries in both access and quality of early childhood learning opportunities, and therefore that there is the need to expand access but with quality. Here, I want to say something which I think is important, when we think about quality, the really key concept is counterfactual quality. What I mean by that is that quality in early childhood services needs to be at least as high as the quality of the home environment where children would've been spending their time had they not been enrolled in early childhood learning services. What this means, I think this is useful because it allows us to sort of think a little bit about what level of quality we need to achieve.

We definitely need to achieve a level of quality that is higher, as I said, than the counterfactual level of quality, but it also means that we don't need to necessarily shoot for, if you want the levels of quality of a country like Finland. First, because it's not really something that we can attain, that many countries can attain in the short run, but also because there will be returns to quality even at lower levels than that. I think a second reason why this is important is because if we think about quality as being relative to counterfactual quality, it also means that the returns to investments in early childhood will be largest when they are targeted to children in households where this counterfactual quality is lower. That's generally children in households of lower socio-economic status with parents with lower levels of education.

There is a prima facie case for investing in particular, in these households, both from the point of view of equality, but also from the point of view of efficiency, just because the returns are largest for children in these families. As Amanda was saying, the volume brings together leading researchers and practitioners to share their thoughts on the evidence on policies that seek to develop quality early learning systems. There's no way I can do justice to everything that is in this volume, and it's great that we'll have this discussion now, but I do want to underline a few things that I think are particularly important. 

The volume makes the point that pedagogy and curricula are important. There is still a bit of, in my view, a misguided debate about whether a classroom for young children should be play-based or structured and I think it's pretty clear that young children learn best when activities are in fact based on play, but when this play is intentional and seeks to have children develop particular skills. I want to thank Hiro Yoshikawa, who's here with us today, for a number of enlightening conversations, particularly about this topic. 

The second message is that the ECD workforce is critical. Great plans and reforms will founder without the workforce to implement them, and this also means that we need to be realistic about the capacities of the workforce. In general, in my view, a workforce with lower education will need more, not less, structure. Here again, one of the panelists, Ben Piper, has done a lot of work on this in developing countries. 

Finally, the volume underlines, the importance of systems. Systems that are needed in terms of monitoring, evaluation, feedback loops to continually improve quality amongst other things. 

I'd like to add a couple of thoughts of my own, they're mentioned in the volume, but they deserve particular attention, in my view.

First, as a community, we still need to do more work to understand what works to improve process quality at scale. I know the authors of the volume are aware of this and discuss it, but I think there's still a lot of work that we need to do on this. Very often, we find things that work wonderfully in an efficacy trial or a small scale pilot, and that then don't work as well, or at all, at scale. We really need to understand what are the key features of implementation that allow for things that seem to be promising on a small scale to really work when they are taken to a much larger scale, perhaps covering tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of children.

Second, I'd like to highlight the importance of measurement, and here I mean, both measurement of quality, but also I think critically of child outcomes. I think part of the reason we don't have the attention from policymakers that we could have is in part, as I said, because we don't have consistent measures of child development, I'm talking here of cognitive development, language development, social-emotional development, in the way that, for example, we have regular data collection on stunting in just about every developing country. This is important because nobody really believes that stunting is a really good measure of nutritional status, it's just a shorthand, easy to collect measure, and so I think what that has done though, is it's really focused policymakers attention on the need to reduce stunting levels in many countries, but we don't see the same impetus in most developing countries with regards to child development. As I said, I think it's in part because we just have gotten stuck in discussions about whether this or that measure of child development is good enough or not good enough, and whether we should be collecting something else, and I think this has done us a great disservice.

Finally, the last thing that I want to stress is that we are living through the biggest blow to human capital in living memory, and that includes young children. In my office, the chief economist office for human development, we are in the process of finalizing a report, which documents the magnitude of this shock to human capital, including for young children. We have lots of evidence that lots of things have gotten worse for young children. We know that some of the critical inputs into child development have suffered, and we know, for example, that there are increased levels of food insecurity, children who have not had access to healthcare, preschools that have closed, and which even after they have reopened, still suffer from lower enrollment rates than they did before.

We also now have evidence from a number of countries, including a number of them in South America, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, but also elsewhere, for example, in Rwanda that unsurprisingly, given these changes, we also have a deterioration of child development itself, so that children who grew up if you want, or who were in their early years during the pandemic, have lower outcomes, worse outcomes, than those before. This volume is particularly timely as a way of elevating these kinds of discussions with policymakers. Let me conclude by saying thank you very much to everybody who's attending, and thank you for giving me an opportunity to share some thoughts and congratulations to the authors of the volume. Thank you.

[Magdalena Bendini]

Thank you very much Norbert and good morning, good afternoon, good evening, to everyone who's joining us. My name is Magdalena Bendini and I'm a Senior Economist at the World Bank, and I'm also a Co-Editor of this Quality Early Learning, Nurturing Children's Potential book that we're launching today. On behalf of the team that has worked on this volume, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share with you this quick overview of the book and highlight some of its key messages.

First, let me tell you a little bit about the book. If we could go to the next slide, please. Which, as both Amanda, Norbert and these slide illustrates, brings together renowned experts from multiple disciplines who have contributed chapters on the critical elements of quality early childhood education. Here, we went to great lengths to make sure that we had both, for each chapter, for each topic, a team of leading researchers who were on the cutting edge, if you would, of the evidence on the topic, as well as implementation experts and that these teams of authors would feature evidence on the best ways to support child learning and how to facilitate these practices, particularly in low and middle income countries, which is where the World Bank works.

Chapter one reviews the evidence of how young children learn and develop foundational skills that set them on strong learning trajectories. Chapters two to four focus on crucial aspects of early childhood education programs that support children ability and motivation to learn in the classrooms, and this includes, pedagogy and curriculum in chapter two, educators capacity in chapter three, learning environments and materials in chapter four. Then chapter five takes us to the school level and highlights the importance of school leaders and systems for monitoring and quality assurance. While chapter six makes the case for systems approach for the successful scaling app of quality early childhood education. Finally, the overview chapter discusses how investments in the critical elements, discussed in the previous chapters, can be prioritized and sequenced to achieve sustainable quality early childhood education for all children. It has been a privilege for me and for the rest of the World Bank team that includes Amanda, Elaine Ding, Melissa Kelly, and Adelle Pushparatnam, to have had the opportunity to share this effort with this distinguished list of authors. We're so excited to finally be able to share this book with you.

A lot has been written about the topics that are in this volume, and you might wonder what the contribution of the book is. The Quality Early Learning, Nurturing Children's Potential volume adds value by bringing together evidence from all these disciplines that the authors represent, and this includes neuroscience, education, psychology, economics, among others. The volumes chapters then synthesize the evidence to identify key investments to promote child learning and document how these strategies can be implemented in lower middle-income countries where access is growing very fast, but where there may be a more acute capacity or resource constraints. As Norbert was saying, really, the crucial definition of quality is, one, we're not suggesting that all countries should aim for the quality standards as those that we see more developed countries, but rather that we have enough quality in the classrooms so that early childhood education can promote learning.

In addition, the overview chapter provides guidance for governments to design policy, to promote quality early learning, suited to local objectives, local capacity, and local constraints. Now, unfortunately we don't have time today to review all the chapters in detail, but we invite you to visit the website for the event where both the volume can be downloaded, and we have also prepared some briefs for each one of the chapters. In the meantime, I would like to take the time that we have together today, to highlight some key messages that emerge from the overview chapter of the book. 

The first key message that I'd like to highlight and share with you, if you could go to the next slide please, is, and Norbert alluded to this, is the importance of balancing quantity and quality of early childhood education. The expansion of access to early childhood education that we're witnessing around the world has the potential to lift many children's learning trajectories, but quality can be harder to keep at that scale, and usually, or often, decreases as systems expand. This is depicted in the red arrows in the graph on the slide. This is because standards are harder to uphold at scale, it may be harder to secure the workforce with sufficient training needed to meet growing service demands, et cetera. We make the case, in the overview chapter, that access to early childhood education should not be expanded if sufficient quality cannot be provided, because it will not lead to more learning, and actually it can be detrimental and worsen child development outcomes. We have seen this in a number of settings, both in developed and developing countries. Now, as the figure in the slide shows, there's no one way, no one path, to increase access with quality. Different countries follow different trajectories that are determined by where the countries are starting from, the possibilities and desperation. Regardless of which pathway a country chooses to follow or can follow, promoting child learning at scale, and the quality that it entails should be an absolute priority.

Moving on to the second key message of their review chapter, we want to make the point that it is crucial to prioritize investments to boost child learning. This seems like a very obvious thing to do for an educational system, but as we know, systems tend to have a diversity of objectives, and child learning is not always prioritized. Here, there's the short term and there's the long term, and of course, it's very important that as assistance expands, as early childhood education opportunities open up in countries, that the foundations are laid out to have quality in the long run, and this includes, of course, professionalizing the workforce, which in the case of early childhood education is not always the case. Devising an effective and holistic early childhood education curricula, which is very difficult, it's a very involved and costly process. Investing in infrastructure that is pedagogically intentional, that is child friendly, and flexible spaces for children to learn, as well as holistic interventions across different sectors and environments.

All of this is very important in the long run, but it is absolutely crucial that the minimum conditions are in place so that children who are in school today can benefit from early childhood education. In the short run and while systems make the investments to table these long term goals, it is important to prioritize investments that are the most likely to lead to child learning. This include improving the capacity of the existing stock of early childhood education workforce, adopting age appropriate pedagogy, and ensuring that the environments where children are learning are safe and stimulating. This intervention doesn't need to be very expensive or complex to be effective, and the chapter features some country examples that highlight this point.

Now moving on to the third and last key message that I want to share with you today from the review chapter, and it tags from the previous one, which is, it's important to ensure minimum conditions for learning in place, and in the meantime countries should make the investments that lay the groundwork for a systems approach to achieve sustainable quality early learning at scale. Doing this, building systems that deliver quality early learning, takes time and multiple investments. There are no shortcuts to this. It requires planning, and it requires to realistically assess the status and key local challenges of early childhood education level, review available resources, the human and the financial. Oftentimes, we work with countries that really, really have enormous aspirations, and that is fantastic, but they're not necessarily aligned with the local resources and that leads to a lot of frustration, or what's worse, to inaction on the ground. Having a sense of where you're starting from or what the conditions are on the ground is essential, as well as it is to define short, medium, and long-term objectives that use early childhood education investments both effectively, but importantly, equitably as well.

Building systems that deliver quality early learning education also entails a focus on results, and it entails adjustments to regulation and adaptation as Norbert was mentioning. Here, monitoring and quality assurance efforts can help countries learn about what works in the local context, identify implementation bottlenecks and adapt accordingly, informing learning feedback loops like the ones that we see on the slide that guide the growth and consolidation to our quality early learning at scale. Also measuring of course, child outcomes is important to keep these results so that all investments in the system are geared towards promoting more learning.

With these key highlights of the review chapter, we'll wrap up this presentation. For more on the review chapter and the other chapters of the book, please check the events website. I mentioned you can there download the volume and the briefs associated with chapter. We really hope that the volume helps inform investments in early childhood education to promote more learning and higher the developmental trajectories for children around the world. Thank you very much for attending the launch of the volume. I now will hand it over to Sarah Bouchie who will lead the rest of the next session and the terrific panel of speakers today. Thank you.

[Sarah Bouchie]

Thanks so much, Magdalena. It's really wonderful. What a pleasure to be here today to celebrate with all of you, the launch of this important volume by the World Bank's early learning partnership. Some of you might know I'm the Chief Impact Officer at the Lego Foundation. Some of you might know about the Lego Foundation. We have this unshakeable focus on helping more children to reach their full potential in the world. Our investment support systems that reimagine learning, and what we say is redefine play. We share the global aspirations of SDG-4 and have a focus on our efforts of lifting the idea that all children should have access to quality, playful learning experiences from a young age and into adulthood. We know that that work is so difficult and that's why this volume is just so exciting because it starts to begin to unpack just exactly how we can do that.

I won't go on much longer. I'm so excited to introduce our panelists. First of all, we have Amanda Devercelli who opened us. Of course, she's the Global Lead for Early Childhood Development and the volume Co-Editor at the World Bank, this volume co-editor. Dr. Ben Piper is the Head of Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We have Minister Mauricio Pineda, Minister of Education in El Salvador. We have another Minister, Minister Khady Diop Mbodji, Secretary General at the Ministry of Education in Senegal. Then we have Dr. Hiro Yoshikawa, Professor of Globalization and Education at NYU Steinhardt, and Co-Director of the Global TIES Center for Children.

I'm so excited to welcome these panelists. They have so much to say. I'm just going to kick it off straight away and ask a question of you, Amanda. We heard a great overview from Magdalena and this desperate need that Norbert shared a little bit. Can you talk about in your role as global lead for early childhood development, when you look at the World Bank portfolio, tell us more about where you see the big opportunities and challenges are to delivering quality early childhood education at scale?

[Amanda Devercelli]

Thanks, Sarah. It's great to be with everyone again today. I think if we start with the challenges, let's just take a minute and reflect on where sort of the level of learning in the world today for most children. I think it's important to recognize that we are living in a time where too many children are going to school, but they're not learning. An estimated 53% of children in middle-income countries are what we call learning or living and learning, which means [inaudible] by the age of 10. Let's just stop and think about that. More than half of the world's children who go to school, let's forget the children who don't have the opportunity to go to school for this statistic. More than half of the children who go to school are not able to read and understand a simple text by the age of 10. This is unacceptable. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the learning crisis with estimates suggesting that that figure of 53% might climb to 70%.

I think when we talk about efforts to expand access to early childhood education, we need to recognize that they are urgent and they will be critical to addressing that learning poverty. We've seen massive growth in early childhood education around the world in the last 10 to 20 years. I've been with the World Bank for more than 10 years now and I can say that when I started with the Bank, if I was asked to join a meeting with a Minister, early childhood education rarely came up in the priority list of the top five. It just wasn't there. Now, I would say in most countries, it comes up as a priority in the top three to five for every country. That is great progress. It's great to know that all the work on sort of the economic rationale for investments in early childhood education and what we know about brain science have really made a difference and persuaded many policymakers.

I think the challenge now is many countries still have constrained resources and have to be able to help policymakers with the how and how to do it at scale and how to show results. Norbert talked about the importance of measuring results. I think that's critical for this agenda, but I think we also need to recognize that one of the big opportunities here is that in many countries, we have a chance to kind of get the system for early childhood education right in the early phase. We still have many countries around the world where only 20 to 30% of children have access to early childhood education.

We can take time now and work together to invest in quality, invest in the workforce, which we know is one of the most important things we can invest in for early childhood education, invest in engaging families and communities in understanding why early childhood education is important and what quality looks like, and investing in the systems to monitor and assure quality. If we can do these things, we can help countries build systems that will be able to deliver quality early childhood education, even as they expand access.

I think there are many challenges, but there are also many opportunities here. I think that what we need to do is be able to translate this evidence of what we know about how children learn into what that means for what we need to do in early childhood education classrooms, and then how we do that at scale. I think in the last five years, we have a number of examples from around the world of countries that are making these investments and starting to see those returns. We need to talk about them loudly, we need to talk about them convincingly and we need to make all stakeholders understand that these investments in early childhood education are not cute, nice-to-do investments. They are essential for addressing learning poverty and they are essential for building human capital and really giving children all the opportunities they deserve. Thanks, Sarah.

[Sarah Bouchie]

Thanks, Amanda. That was really helpful. I think it does a good job of outlining both the challenges and the opportunities in the context of some of the other comments that were made. I'm just wondering if you could follow up on that. So you talked about lifting the examples of governments. So later, we're going to hear from governments’ representatives from El Salvador and Senegal. They've increased their investment in quality ECD at scale. Can you talk about, especially in the context of school closures, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how do we start to convince governments to follow that example?

[Amanda Devercelli]

That's another great question. I think there are lots of different ways. One of the things we are doing at the World Bank is a lot more cross country sharing. We have a program called Engaging Policymakers in Early Childhood Education, which 15 countries have signed up for. Teams of sort of five policymakers from ministries of education enroll in an 18 month course online and eventually face to face, to engage with other policymakers, to learn from what other countries are doing. One of the things that's been really incredible to see is first of all, it's been amazing to see such high participation from policymakers in this course during the COVID-19 crisis when we know everyone was so busy, they still made time for this learning and this cross country sharing. I think that's a sign of how much interest is out there in learning from other countries.

That's one of the things we're doing. And I know many other partners who are on the line today are doing a lot of work around connecting countries to share lessons learned, getting the evidence out there. I think, also we are radically increasing our financing for early childhood education. One of the things that we're really proud of is that the Bank's investments in early childhood education, as a percentage of our portfolio, of our education portfolio, have more than doubled over the last two funding cycles. We went from about $500 million to a billion dollars. That's a huge change. So we've more than doubled the size, but also within the proportion of the overall budget.

We've also seen a similar growth in our cross-sectoral early childhood development investments, so in health and education, social protection, nutrition, and all of the other things we know children need to learn and grow. I think that's another important part of how to support countries and partners in this effort is to make sure no one sector can do everything, but every sector can do something to support early childhood and children's development. If we can find ways for sectors to partner strategically and build bridges across, we can do a lot more for young children's development.

Likewise, engaging families in creative ways. We have a program called Read at Home, which is distributing story books, high quality story books in the languages children speak at home with their parents, along with parent engagement, which we know is so important. We need to focus on the most disadvantaged children, particularly in the COVID context, but always. We need to think about how to leverage technology in smart ways, which a lot of countries, Chile, Colombia, and Peru have some great examples of the way they shifted their early childhood education and home visiting programs that were supporting disadvantaged young children to leverage technology to reach families during the crisis. Thanks.

[Sarah Bouchie]

Thanks so much, Amanda. I think that's really great. I want to pick up on something that you just talked about with the idea of, we have a good sense of the momentum, the financing, but there are challenges around the how. So I'll turn to our next panelist, Ben Piper. Ben, you're an author of the volumes chapter on the early childhood education workforce, a huge area for investment. You've just taken an important leadership role at the Gates Foundation. You have years of experience as an implementer of early childhood education at scale. Can you maybe talk a little bit about what you've learned about implementation to strengthen the early childhood education workforce? Tell us a little bit about why this balance between academia and implementation is important to support policymakers and practitioners to do that strengthening of the workforce.

[Ben Piper]

Yeah. Thanks so much, Sarah. Good to see you and congratulations to Amanda and Magdalena on getting this out. Actually I think to your question of the marriage between academia and implementation, the first thing I could say is that this chapter, chapter three. Magdalena and Amanda can't say it, but their favorite chapter, chapter three, which is on the effective early childhood education workforce, which I was a Co-Author for, actually deals with that idea of kind of the connections between academia and applied researchers. My co-authors Nirmala Rao, Emma Pearson, Carrie Lau are academics. When we were having kind of our author meeting, planning of this chapter out, they knew the literature. They knew what the evidence said about early childhood education teachers. They knew critically in this topic what the evidence didn't say, because I think one of the things we can call for as a body of applied researchers or academics in this sector, there's a real demand for more. Quite a bit of our chapter had to depend on what the evidence said around primary teacher preparation and retention because there wasn't enough on early childhood.

I think my role as an implementer, kind of an applied researcher on the ground, was to kind of think about what policymakers that I was talking to, how they were responding to the realities of preparing and retaining teachers for this level. If you do read chapter three, you see how this kind of comparison between the academic view and the applied research view kind of allows us to pull from the evidence that exists as well as make some suggested quick actions that countries who are concerned about the quality of their EC teacher workforce can do that kind of combination of academia and applied researchers. We're doing that. In particular, our strategy, our chapter is focused on kind of four areas that countries should consider when it comes to DC workforce, attracting high quality candidates, preparing those candidates with the skills and knowledge they need, supporting them with ongoing professional development in a variety of methods, and then retaining those staff through ensuring a standard of working conditions.

If you know ECE sector, you know that all four of those strategies, we were encouraging researchers on the one hand and policymakers on the other, we know how hard some of those are. I mean, if you're thinking about kind of retention of EC teacher staff, it's quite difficult. The methods of supporting them through professional development is hard. Given a lot of the teacher markets in some countries, attracting high quality candidates is really difficult given the real tremendous need for increase. I think the chapter and our work suggests that the effectiveness across these strategies really depends on the quality of system implementation.

So Sarah, going to your question about implementation, it's how countries are responding to this evidence and doing the training in ways that are going to be effective. I think one of the things that the evidence on teacher professional development in low and middle-income countries is consistently showing, it's the how of training that makes a difference for the quality of implementation, particularly on the in-service side. And on the pre-service side, the evidence suggests consistently there's just not enough investment on the quality of pre-service delivery. There's so much memorization that happens in pre-service and not nearly enough opportunities for teachers to practice the skills in the classrooms themselves or in the practicum that they get from their system. All this depends as that chapter shows on this specific country context. There's places where you have a low proportion of the workforce who are trained and how they would do a pre-service training combined with in-service training to help teachers who are coming without the same level of pre-service preparation, how they can work together.

When in context, where the workforce is already pretty well trained, the focus should be on the quality of existing training and really doing that in ways that focuses on adult learning so that actually teachers are getting the skills and practice they need. Fundamentally, in both cases, whether you have a highly well trained workforce or one that's not as well trained, that the skills of that professional development really needs to focus on modeling the instructional behaviors that matter, and then providing teachers opportunities to do this.

Fundamentally, I'll turn us back over to you Sarah, is the idea of kind of encouraging connections between research and implementation that Magdalena and Amanda did for the book, but that we're encouraging countries to do on the ground, really helps the researchers develop a concrete understanding of what happens on the ground and also for the practitioners, they will have insights from ongoing implementation research that are therefore more actionable than the kind of impact evaluations that people like me normally like to do. Over to you, Sarah.

[Sarah Bouchie]

Thanks so much, Ben. Thanks for sharing those insights. I think what really strikes me from your comments is they go back to what Norbert opened us with about the importance of really thinking about process and process quality. Then also really linked to what Amanda was saying too, around the importance or the interest across countries and doing more learning and sharing. You're really talking about ratcheting up that learning dial. So Ben, I have to ask you, in your current role at the Gates Foundation, tell us, what does that mean for you? How does investing in quality early learning fit with the Foundation's larger strategy?

[Ben Piper]

I think the exciting thing right now about the global education strategy that I've inherited and now excited to be leading is that it's really focused on improving learning outcomes for children who are facing what Amanda said, kind of that age 10 skill set. Do they have the skills they need? So fundamentally, not having those skills, those minimum skills in both literacy, the example that Amanda said about the percentage of kids who can read at the age of 10, but also numeracy. Can they do the basic skills there? That those are, I think if we look forward, unless countries respond to the reduction in skills that are coming as a result of the COVID-19 related learning loss, we're really going to have an impending crisis with respect to human capital. They might not show up in one year, but it's going to show up in subsequent years.

I'm excited our strategy is focused on improving those learning outcomes so we can help human capital development on the one hand, but also societal progress. It's the bigger issues at the country level, being able to respond. I think for us, investing in the quality foundational learning is important for a wide range of educational goals that an education system should have. I think we are talking in our strategy, primarily about literacy and numeracy, but the picture is beyond that. It's the ability of those children to have skills as they exit primary school that are evaluated in a variety of subjects, that are not evaluated at all, the social-emotional learning in other areas, but you have to have those skills. Fundamentally to me, and to us, it's just wrong that nine in 10 children in Sub-Saharan Africa leave the age of 10, without these basic skills. It's just wrong.

I think beyond that, it's wrong and immoral that there's such a wide gap within country. There's gaps between countries. There's also gaps within country that the children in the middle class, in the capital cities, have access to much higher quality ECE teachers and much better materials and general teacher quality than children in poor rural areas that we all care so much about. I think that the issue of early learning is important from an absolute sense, but it's also important from a relative sense. We need to help countries that are concerned even more than we are about those equity issues.

At least from our point of view, we're a philanthropic organization. We're not going to compete with domestic resources. I think the funds that countries are spending to hire and retain teachers in ECE is really important. So if we can help on the margins about how to do small things differently and how to select them, how to support them, and then how to retain them, it can have multiplicative effects on the general quality in the education sector.

Last thing, I just would say that for us and our strategy at the Gates Foundation, the issue of teachers and teaching is a real focus for our strategy. So the focus is on lower primary, but these questions are not just there in a chapter. They're questions for us and I think they're fundamental ones that we should all be concerned about. It is possible, potentially, to make relatively small, inexpensive shifts in how teachers are supported, how they're trained that could have really big impacts on the relative outcomes that kids are having. I think we're all interested in what the research community can continue to come up with, including my co-authors, who did a great job with this paper, but we look forward to hearing more from them and the broader sector. So how can we deal with the existing teacher structure, but have it substantially better for kids from a learning outcomes point of view? Thanks, Sarah.

[Sarah Bouchie]

It's really heartening Ben, to hear you sort of dig into some of the questions that you're outlining and then see how the Foundation can support those kinds, or philanthropic actors can start to support those kinds of questions. You also touched on this equity issue that I'm going to pick up a little bit later, so let's hold onto that one and then maybe just take what your insights are at a very practical level around teachers and improving that and Amanda's overall challenges, and I'd like to turn to our panelists who are coming from a country perspective. So Minister Pineda, let me start with you. Could you please just set us a scene? Please tell us a little bit about early learning in your context and why you're investing in early childhood education in your country? Can you start us out with that?

[Mauricio Pineda]

Thank you, Sarah. Good morning to everyone and congratulations to all the people involved in this launch. It is a pleasure for me to be participating in this space. Regarding to your question, at present, El Salvador is involved in educating the generation of citizens it needs in the immediate future. Our country is 10 years away from the close of a unique opportunity with demographic bonus it is experiencing. That is the crude birth rate and the overall fertility rate are down. A large part of the population is in the precise age-range to make the productive social, human, and economic contribution that the country needs. Early learnings correspond to children in El Salvador between the ages of zero to seven. In other words, they're in the stage of early childhood. Out of 6,313,881 Salvadorians estimated for the next year, over 860,129 will be zero to seven years old in the following five years. Same population will increase to 761,942 out of a total of 6,424,530. Historical data in education coverage reflect they've accrued in terms of early childhood care. For instance, during the year 2021, 563,885 school-age children that were zero to seven years old were not enrolled in our educational system. In light of this historical condition and address early learning of very young in the country, the Ministry of Education and government of El Salvador created the Early Education Level Care for children for zero to three years of age.

This adds to the preschool level that serves school children for age four to six, plus the first grade of basic education where students of eight years old are enrolled. As all we know, children in the first years need adults to ensure a stimulation is provided in timely manner with games, communication, singing and reading, express with affection. However, when adults respond with indifference or not at all, this can have a negative impact on child's development, with difficulty consolidating intellectual skills, problems integrated into social lack of self-control and poor emotional regulation. This usually resolved from the lack of attention, motivation and early stimulation. This is a great challenge in our country where the adults usually needs to spend time away from home in the fulfillment of their productive economic function in the world of work. A situation that is especially damaging for children in the most vulnerable social and economic strata. This is the cycle that we intend to break and pass this on the present and future generation citizens whose comprehensive medications goes from gestation and birth to that golden age, which is early childhood I will refer to this in a moment.

[Sarah Bouchie]

That's a really clear picture of the demographic challenge that you face and the grounding and science of your response. It's really interesting to hear. I wonder Minister Pineda, if you could tell us a little bit more about maybe some of the challenges, but even more so, what are you really excited about right now in your investments?

[Mauricio Pineda]

Thank you again, Sarah, as I restated earlier, the Ministry of Education together with the government of President Bukele, with the full support of the Office of the First Lady, are committing to breaking the cycles of under development linked to early childhood care. That is why First Lady Gabriela de Bukele presented the Crecer Juntos policy with the UN and UNICEF. This is the comprehensive policy for early childhood development. This policy intends for children in El Salvador to reach their maximum development potential with quality care in the areas of health, nutrition, education, learning, care and protection through our strategies like programs and inter-institutional and inter-sectoral actions for a decisive impact on long-term economic and social objectives, giving everyone fair opportunities and ultimately to have a better quality of life.

Of course, the implementation of the Crecer Juntos policy is the greatest challenges that this ministry has taken on for the benefit of early childhood, especially regarding the policy pillar on education and care, which together with health and nutrition, protective environments and protection of rights are four of the main pillar of this policy, echoing on the constitution of the Republic and convention on the right of the child. The Crecer Juntos policy views the comprehensive development of early childhood as a right of every child born in El Salvador and seeks to take advantage of those exceptional and unrepeatable years of early childhood to have decisive impact on their comprehensive development.

With this, at least 10 of the sustainable development goals will be positively impacted. The growing together policy take the following approach: gender, rights, comprehensive development, inclusion and life cycle or lifelong approach. The Ministry of Education participates in decisive manner and education and care pillar, where the overall result expected by 2030 is a decrease of the portion of children from zero to seven years of age, who experience development delay. All of our efforts and capabilities are focused on the achieving this result. As evidences and fact that we are one of the few countries in the region that has increased the educational budget during the pandemic years. We help the support and the collaboration of all in order to make it possible to have a different, better El Salvador for the generations to come. Thank you and back to you...

[Sarah Bouchie]

Thank you so much, Minister Pineda. That gave us a really comprehensive idea of the policy that you have outlined and congratulations for such an ambitious undertaking. I'd like to just fly us across the ocean and maybe land us in Senegal for a little bit and talk to Secretary General Diop. Could you just give us a little bit of the context of early learning in your context as well, and why you are starting to invest in early childhood education in Senegal? Do we have the minister? Secretary General Diop?

[Khady Diop Mbodji]

[Speaking in foreign language]

[Sarah Bouchie]

Thank you so much for those comments. Madam Secretary. I think we just had a little bit of problem with the interpretation. If you can move to the French channel and then I'll ask you another question, but in the meantime, Amanda, could you give us just maybe some highlights from the Madam Secretary's notes?

[Amanda Devercelli]

I can. Thanks, Sarah. And I'm so sorry...

[Khady Diop Mbodji]

[Speaking in foreign language]

[Sarah Bouchie]

I think you need to be on the original audio.

[Amanda Devercelli]

[Speaking in foreign language]

[Khady Diop Mbodji]

[Speaking in foreign language]

Speaker 3:

We hear you in French not in English.

[Amanda Devercelli]

... Original audio.

[Translator for Khady Diop Mbodji]

Can you hear me? Say secretary?

[Amanda Devercelli]

Yes. Okay. Now it's working.

[Translator for Khady Diop Mbodji]

It worked. [Speaking in foreign language]

[Khady Diop Mbodji]

[Speaking in foreign language]

[Amanda Devercelli]


[Translator for Khady Diop Mbodji]

Do you want me to sum up quickly what I said?

[Amanda Devercelli]

I think it's not quite working yet. I don't know if one of our technical people can help us out here. Maybe just come on in the chat and tell us what directions to give.

[Sarah Bouchie]

She's supposed to be on original audio.

[Amanda Devercelli]

Okay. So Madam Mbodji [Speaking in foreign language]

[Translator for Khady Diop Mbodji]

Mrs. Mbodji, if you see interpretation.

[Amanda Devercelli]

[Speaking in foreign language] Original audio.

[Sarah Bouchie]

I think we have it now Amanda.

[Tech support]

Could you submit the original audio?

[Amanda Devercelli]

[Speaking in foreign language]

[Khady Diop Mbodji]

[Speaking in foreign language]

[Amanda Devercelli]

No, original audio... Option original audio English, French, Spanish [Speaking in foreign language] say original audio.

[Tech support]

Please choose original audio.

[Amanda Devercelli]

What I'll do, just... I'm sorry everybody about this. There's always something. Ibrahima I think you can hear me. Could you help maybe by WhatsApp and help solve this with Madam Mbodji because she has some really important points to share and we want to hear from her. Maybe I will just come in... Sorry, you've all just heard my terrible French, but it's enough to have understood some of the key points that Madam Mbodji shared. I just want to highlight a few of them in English now to make sure that everybody hears them, and then hopefully by the time I'm done, it'll be fixed. If not, Sarah, maybe we can go to Hiro and then we try to come back to Madam Mbodji once we have it fixed. I'm very sorry.

[Sarah Bouchie]


[Amanda Devercelli]

But there's just a couple of things I wanted to highlight. So Madam Mbodji talked a lot about how Senegal has been increasing their budget in early childhood education. She also talked about the multiple pathways that Senegal has for investing in early childhood education. I have the privilege to work in Senegal with Madam Mbodji's team, and they have pre-primary classrooms attached to primary schools. They have community-based early childhood development centers. They have early learning in quranic schools. There are many different approaches to scaling up access to early learning and early childhood education in Senegal and activating all of this different channels has been really important for increasing access. She also talked about the role of partners and how the government of Senegal is working in partnership with different partners, including the World Bank and the Korean Development Agency, and I know UNICEF as well as others.

She talked about the ambitious goals that Senegal has set, which is to go from a current level about 18% enrollment in early childhood education right now, up to about 50% by 2030. Ambitious, but also realistic goals given the increased investment Senegal is making the focus on quality and the different pathways they're using. Thank you everybody for letting me just share those words from Madam Mbodji in English. Sarah, back to you.

[Sarah Bouchie]

Great. Thank you so much, Amanda. I wonder if we've got Madam Mbodji. If I can ask one more question or should I flip to Hiro? Can you hear me. Okay, Madam Mbodji?

[Khady Diop Mbodji]

[Speaking in foreign language]

[Translator for Khady Diop Mbodji]

Can you hear me now?

[Sarah Bouchie]

We'll just go to Hiro and see if we can get you settled and I can't wait to hear the answer to your next question about what you're excited about, because it sounds like there's a lot going on. But in the meantime, I'm just going to flip over and ask Hiro. So I'm just going to pick up on something that Ben talked about earlier. You study the effects of public policies in programs related to early childhood on children's development. You were on the technical advisory for this group and for this volume, I think many of us know of your expertise in how instrumental it is in sort of helping many of us understand the field. Can you maybe talk a little bit about what do we know about how investments in early learning levels really help the playing field between children with more and less opportunities to be more equal? If you can say something about stable context, context of fragility, violence, or conflict and what that looks like, we'd love to get your insights and how to think about early childhood education.

[Hirokazu Yoshikawa]

Sure. Well, first of all, congratulations on this volume to Magdalena, Amanda and all the others. It's a tremendous resource. It really brings together the lessons, not just from evaluations, but also on studies of implementation at scale, and so I think from that perspective, it really provides an evidence based set of guidelines, principles, a lot of strategies that have been exciting to see emerging from so many different countries and regions of this particular sector, which has of course such an enormous promise for lifelong impact. I can say a couple points about how the benefits of quality early childhood are stronger for more disadvantaged children. That's something that we see from large scale systematic reviews in both in high-income countries and low-middle income countries. I take from that that when we move towards universal provision, which is the SDG goal that approaches to scale should start with the most disadvantaged populations.

That definition of disadvantage, I would say we see the most consistent patterns around economic disadvantage across countries, but of course we know that those are intertwined with issues of rural and remote populations, ethnicity and language, indigenous status, immigration and displaced status, which we'll get to in a minute, disability status. When we talk about disadvantage, I think we do have to be specific, but overall, the benefits of quality early childhood education really are stronger for disadvantaged populations. We do have to also say that early childhood education at scale can level the playing field only when it is of sufficient quality. I do think this notion of the counterfactual is really important. Studies from places like Ecuador and recently the United States are showing that low quality early childhood education can be worse than the alternative, which is home-based support and what parents and caregivers provide. I think it is extremely important to think about the counterfactual in terms of quality. I would also add that early childhood education is often preceded or accompanied by childcare, which can occur in centers or in homes, and there we haven't even greater quality agenda and more challenges around quality. I know the bank is set to make some large investments. I think many of the principles we've been talking about as far as quality are important there. I would have a caution on this point that early childhood by itself, can't eliminate disparities based on all of those social factors. 

First of all, that early childhood development is multi-sectoral and particularly supporting the caregivers through social protection and supporting both caregivers and children with health and nutrition. These were mentioned by, I think, both the minister and the lady director general of Senegal around integrated and integral multi-sectoral ECD.

I would also say that we need investments in the quality of primary education to sustain the boost. If we really want to reach age 10 and tackle that global learning crisis, there is increasing evidence, not just from high-income countries, but also from low and middle-income countries that the investments in the quality of primary education will help and are complementary to the earlier investments. We need both. Then finally, we need to actually explicitly address exclusion based on those factors like language displacement, displaced status, or disability. 

Then I think you asked about fragile and conflict-affected contexts and just a couple of points there. I think the caregiver becomes even more important when access to early childhood education is not possible in a crisis, conflict, or a situation of violence. Staying in touch with a caregiver. There have been many innovations in the COVID crisis that will be applicable to other crises and the lesson of prioritizing mental health and wellness and coping, alongside learning, well-being is extremely important.

I would say what COVID has taught us is that we do need to prioritize basic needs, mental health, and wellness in staying in touch with caregivers, in addition to the support for learning opportunities and supporting teachers. I would add there, supporting teachers' well-being. If there's any gap in the comprehensive, nurturing care framework, I would say it's that it could have perhaps placed a little bit more emphasis on mental health and wellness. COVID has really shown us how important that is. 

Finally, we should build on the community and cultural resources of displaced populations and involve them in the design of play-based learning interventions and quality early learning opportunities.

[Sarah Bouchie]

Thank you so much, Hiro. That gives us a really comprehensive answer for sure and hearkens back to some of what we heard is going on, at least in El Salvador about thinking holistically in early childhood and early childhood development. I wanted to pick up on a question, that has come from some of the audience members, asking you just a little bit more. Can you dig deeper on the role of parents and other caregivers in supporting children's early learning? How do you see that from your research base and what we know about what is important for children?

[Hirokazu Yoshikawa]

Certainly. So I think it is critical to think of if we simply think of the hours where children spend their time around the world, home is where socialization and learning starts and that is where the bulk of time is spent in the early childhood years. Especially, during the first thousand days and that is why I think there is such a need to emphasize caregiver support. But I would say that doesn't go away in the period that this volume covers, which is the age span of three to six and into primary education because caregivers continue to be important.

I would highlight some innovations that are going on and happened during COVID, which are, for example, have teachers work with small groups of parents and transfer their teaching and their strategies for learning to small groups of caregivers with their children. This is something that's going on in a remote program in Lebanon right now that is implemented by the IRC with partners.

I think there are innovations in how to reach out to parents. I think the sending of learning materials and home languages has been a very interesting innovation in some parts of the world. There are ways to reach out to parents using WhatsApp or text accompanied by images or actual materials. There are ways to accompany broadcasts, even if they're radio in remote areas with that kind of support. I think we know a lot about that. I think what we've learned recently, which will be really important moving forward is that we do want to also pay attention to caregivers' mental health and well-being. Tthat means that the workforce skills include not just pedagogy, but active listening, responsiveness to parents' needs as well as the facilitation of learning.

[Sarah Bouchie]

That was really helpful. Thank you for that comprehensive answer Hiro. I'm going to turn back and see if we can get Madam Secretary on to ask her this last question about... I know we don't have video, but we can hear you. Madame Secretary, could you talk a little bit about the challenges that you're facing in the context of Senegal and then a little bit about what you're excited about.

[Khady Diop Mbodji]

[Speaking foreign language]

[Translator for Khady Diop Mbodji]

Thank you very much. I'd like, first of all, to verify that the connection is working, indeed, do you hear the translation? Can you hear the translation? Are you receiving on the English channel? Yes. 

I am terribly sorry for what happened earlier. Thank you very much for this exchange.

Concerning the specific context of Senegal, I wanted to say that for early childhood, we have continuous challenges, persisting challenges, concerning access. As I said earlier, in my first intervention, we still have a lot of efforts to be made to achieve a normal rate of early childhood education. We find ourselves at 17% for this year, but we would like to reach 50% by 2030. The other challenge is financing. At this time, from the education ministry, we have less than 2% in part to finance early childhood. This is extremely low, way too low, and we still need to define quality. We have investments, but in terms of quality, we're not there yet. As I said, we are supported by a partner and this is what enabled us to be able to develop our curriculum because it is important for early childhood to be able to see the curriculum. We also have a challenge regarding what we call early childhood at the community level. We spoke about this earlier, how can we mobilize and involve the community in terms of the development of early childhood education?

We also have these programs with our partners and we are thinking about the tools and the manuals and the pedagogical equipment that we will have at our disposal. With this, we have developed a program that is supported by the World Bank on the intervention for this project, with the Ministry of the Family and this intervention that's called Read at Home and where we give the students and the parents the means and the tools that will enable them to better learn and be supported by their parents.

This is lacking in early childhood education. We also worked on the distribution, the communication of these manuals, how do they end up in the hands of the children? The very young. We have a mechanism that is supported by the World Bank and that will help us with all the strategies that we are undertaking. Lastly, the training for the teachers. This is a persisting challenge as well. We need our teachers to be well prepared to have the appropriate tools so that they can respond to the needs of early childhood education. We have training centers that will help the teachers to be better equipped and better prepared. We are working on this important aspect of the program at this time. Thank you very much.

[Sarah Bouchie]

 [Inaudible] more about the context and certainly is a whole lot to be excited about. This idea of a holistic view of the child and thinking more about home to school and how that works together. Thank you so much. I think we're almost at the end of time. I don't know if we have one more question that we want to try to get to, or I can do some summary remarks. I'm looking to see if our colleagues who are moderating the questions that are coming in live have any. I think we have time for just one.

Okay. I don't see any popping up. So then I'm going to give a few summary remarks before I turn it over to Omar Arias, who is a Practice Manager that looks after the early learning partnership and allow him to close us out. I was really struck by the richness of this conversation. We started with Amanda really talking about momentum and how we're seeing that in the early childhood space. How we're looking more and more about pushing deeper on learning across different contexts and a curiosity that comes with, how do you get these things done?

Ben brought us to the place of this idea of the research practicum, sort of space to think much more about, how do we really connect and dial up the ways that we're learning about those efficiency gains that you can make? That's really underscored as well from the things that we heard from our country, colleagues, both Minister Pineda and Madam Mbodji thinking much more about parents and the workforce and this demographic, this set of issues that are in their countries in order to be able to engage many more actors to support early childhood education.

Then finally, we heard from Hiro about this idea that started also with Norbert and Magdalena around the importance of early childhood, leveling, and supporting children and families who are in need of greater support because of socioeconomic status or other reasons why they might be left out. 

What a wonderful discussion and one that makes me want to tear through this new volume. Very exciting. I'm going to say thanks very much to our panelists and congratulations again to the authors and the co-editors and the whole team that has put this together, and offer my thanks and turn it over to Omar to say some final words. Thank you.

[Omar Arias]

Thank you. Thank you very much to you, Sarah, for your fantastic job also in moderating our excellent panel. It has been a very rich discussion. It's always a little difficult to provide any wisdom words at the end when you've had such a great panel and so many insights have been shared. Maybe what I'll try to do in taking a little bit from my role as the manager that oversees our program, not just on early childhood education, but also basic education and tertiary education. Just to draw some connections to a lot of what has been said with the lessons that we have from basically, our failings in basic education globally. As everybody knows, we have been in a learning crisis for quite some time. It preceded COVID and it has just been amplified by the impacts of the pandemic and school closures.

I think there are a few lessons from the basic education experience that I think we need to connect to EC. I think the first one is it's really that message that we really need to avoid expanding coverage without quality. In the presentation that Magdalena did, there was a slide and it's somewhere in the volume about the possible path to improving both quality and coverage. I think I should say that definitely, I think the one that was labeled number one, where it is really preferable to spend coverage more gradually, but ensuring quality that is definitely a preferable path. It has been said already by the panelists that actually bad quality EC can be worse than no EC services. It's really very important. Then the key challenges, again, as Norbert put it at the very beginning, how do we achieve scale with quality?

Again, there are some lessons from basic education, which again, resonate because they have been set here and very well discussed in the volume. The first one is the absolute key importance of sustained political commitment. Recent experiences from successful countries or states in the world in achieving results in basic education. For instance, the experience of the city of Sobral and the state of Ceara in Brazil, even at Tusome in Kenya, that Ben has been involved, show that it is absolutely essential to ensure continuity of reforms and investments over time, particularly the political capital to sustain and push critical reforms. Now, unfortunately, this is adults with short-term, political horizons. It's certainly very hard to get that as it happens in many countries, ministers of location change too frequently. It's something that we really need to focus on.

I think to do that collectively, the second lesson is that there is an absolute need to measure outcomes and the drivers of outcomes because this is really the only way in which we can, as a collective from societies to external actors, ensure that politicians do devote the attention to scale resources and the political capital needed to sustain EC investments. Having targets and a goal against which one can benchmark progress in outcomes I think is absolutely key. In basic education we have about half of countries do not consistently measure learning. I think that is a tragedy and we cannot repeat the same mistake in EC.

Third lesson, again, it has been said, an absolute need to prioritize effective teaching at scale for that, we know that we need that teacher professional development to be practical and to be evidence-based.

One thing that maybe we didn't touch upon enough today, but it's in the volume. We have actually a new global report on teachers that is focusing on this, is that actually, ultimately, effective teacher professional development needs to focus on getting teachers to adopt and sustain the right behaviors that will allow them to adopt effective teaching practices in the classroom. Behavioral change, like anything in life, when we try to do something better, it all goes through behavioral change. The way we design these programs can actually help teachers eventually to do that. There are three key principles, again, doing a little preview of this upcoming report, to the extent that we make a teacher policy and particularly teacher professional development clear, doable, and rewarding, there is a better chance that it will have the impact we need in terms of developing an effective teaching workforce.

Final lesson and certainly not the least important is the absolute need to develop the capacity to implement effective policies at scales and understand better how actually systems do that. How is it that places like again, Sobral in Ceara got better at designing and implementing policies at scale? Meaning as they expand coverage, in the case of Sobral, that actually the coverage already expanded. But if we want effective systems to be built gradually with quality, how we say that we can get bureaucracy to get better at designing and implementing the key ingredients of effective EC at scale. I think, again, that is a final lesson that we'll need to work on.

The good news is that there is a lot of country demand and a lot of country interest in this. I mean, if I give you data from our own portfolio, it has doubled over the past five years. It's about $1 billion now, and it's actually supporting a lot of the elements of effective features at EC policy that we have touched upon today.

We really hope that this volume and the discussion today from our excellent panel can help make those investments more impactful. I just want to end by again, thanking the panel, thanking the team, and thanking the authors of the volume. It has been a long effort, so it's fantastic to see it come to a fruitful culmination today. This is just the beginning. There are going to be more opportunities to continue to discuss and learn from the volume. Final thanks to the LEGO Foundation and our partners in the Early Learning Partnership Trust Fund. Also, for the support in doing this work and many other initiatives in EC. So with that, I want to thank everybody that connected today and stay tuned. Thank you very much. Have a great day, evening, and night.

00:00 Welcome and animated introduction video
04:55 Opening remarks
13:22 Main insights of the report Quality Early Learning: Nurturing Children’s Potential
25:12 Opportunities and challenges to delivering quality early childhood education
31:47 Increasing investment in the context of school closures due to the pandemic
34:55 Strengthening the early childhood education workforce
40:57 Quality early learning in The Gates Foundation's strategy
45:21 Early childhood education in El Salvador
53:01 Early childhood education in Senegal
1:05:22 Equality and early learning
1:12:15 The role of parents and other caregivers
1:15:00 Challenges and opportunities in Senegal
1:20:51 Closing remarks

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Read the Q&A

Early Years Fellowship Coordinator, World Bank

Liviane (moderator) Hello everyone, and welcome to the “Investing in Quality Early Learning to Combat the Global Learning Crisis” event. My name is Liviane Urquiza. I am here to moderate this chat and share the highlights of the event while Melissa Kelly tries to answer as many of your questions as she can.

We'll start the event in a few minutes. Please stay tuned and submit your comments and questions using the live chat. We also would like to remind you that simultaneous interpretation is available in Spanish and French.

You can join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #EarlyLearning. This event will also be live-streamed on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

While we wait for the event to begin, learn more about our new report, Quality Early Learning: Nurturing Children’s Potential.

Mindsana Thank you for organizing this event! I look forward to reading the new report

Swati Hi I am from Kolkata West Bengal India.

Ikwe chigozie Adanma On challenged children, to be part of an inclusive Education, thanks.

Liviane (moderator) Norbert Schady, World Bank Chief Economist for Human Development, kicks off the discussion with Opening Remarks, followed by Magdalena Bendini, World Bank Senior Education Economist and Volume Co-Editor, who will provide an overview of what you will find in the volume, other materials that are available, and upcoming events.

(From LinkedIn) Ralph How has the Covid-19 pandemic influenced Early learning problems across the world? Through increased connectivity, rural households invested in digital education using basic online tools? #earlylearning

Melissa Kelly / World Bank @Ralph: The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected children’s lives and access to learning. Young children have been and will continue to be particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery. This vulnerability stems from several issues, including the developmental period of their life and relatively narrow window in which to intervene before primary school entry, the need for caregivers to engage with and support young children’s learning at home, limited access to education technology or physical learning materials in many homes, and decisions by some countries to prioritize virtual learning for older children rather than younger children.

Countries had to act quickly during the crisis to reach children and make adjustments to programs. For example, in Colombia the Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar launched the Mis Manos te Enseñan (My Hands Teach You) program to provide pregnant women and young children with information, activity kits, phone calls, and other support to promote children’s development. In North Macedonia, the government created a TV classroom and the Eduino digital platform aimed at enhancing the learning of ECE and primary school children.

mbulambol As we discuss "the different aspects of quality early childhood education and guidance of implementation" vital aspects to consider are culture and context.

Ranjana I am from Nepal and working in this ECEC field from 10 years.

Carolina A. Where can we find the volume?

Liviane (moderator) @Carolina A.: you can download the report and read the press release

Carolina A. I mean printed

Liviane (moderator) @Carolina: Thank you for your question. The volume will be available to purchase soon on the World Bank Online Bookstore:

smendive Hello, I'd like to hear from speakers what implementation science can inform prescholer teacher education. Thanks

Melissa Kelly / World Bank @Smendive. Great question! Ben will share more now on how implementation science can strengthen early childhood education

Ousmane As a teacher, I believe that the fondational skills are of paramount importance for preparing future adolescent learners to face temptations of their every day life and helping them to learn to selective as for where to productively invest their time. Now how do you plan to support quality driven and massive early schooling ? How could this be free of cost to the vast majority ? What we notice is this stage of learners' schooling is cost effective or expensive and many parents can't afford retention of their in private schools. Thank you

Melissa Kelly / World Bank @ousmane. Thank you for your question. The purpose of this volume is to provide policymakers with evidence and strategies to support their efforts to expand access to quality early learning at scale. This will look different in each country and will take time. The Overview chapter provides more information to help policymakers make decisions about priorities on where to invest and the chapters provide more specific information on what this looks like in several countries for pedagogy and curriculum, the workforce, the learning environment and leadership/management capacities.

Nika From Ukraine Hello! Excuse me, I have asked my question here a couple of days ago, but it isn't approved until this time :( Do I need to write my question again?

Liviane (moderator) @Nika: Your question is currently in the moderation queue. Our expert, Melissa Kelly, is there to review and answer as many questions as possible. Thanks for your patience

Nika From Ukraine Good day! My name is Nika, I'm from Ukraine. We want, that our children will have deserved life. We want to give them this life in the role of parents, and in the role of teachers. As the second variant - yes, it is so, as in our country we have a big number of that students, that study to be teachers and educators. But if we won't pay for our education, we will be kicked out. And who then will be teaching our children in our country? But anyway, it concerns other specializations and students as well, who don't study on the teachers. Please, draw this into account! We want to help to give a good education to the children and from this depends on the quality of education of our children! And because of this, at first, we need to give this opportunity to their future teachers or/and parents despite this war! What to do in this situation? Is it possible and real, if yes, who can help us? Thank You very much in advance!

Melissa Kelly / World Bank @Nika. Thank you for your question. For children in contexts of violence or conflict, early childhood can be a protective factor. While schools are closed, we can work with children's parents and caregivers to can mitigate the negative effects of trauma and provide care and stimulation even families are on the move.

How about the low income country like South Sudan? What is the Priority for world bank?

Agency for Community Development Aid 

Melissa Kelly / World Bank @Agency for Community Development Aid The World Bank is supporting South Sudan to strengthen the quality of children's learning in lower primary. For more information on the World Bank's work in South Sudan, please visit

Liviane (moderator) Remember, you can send your questions either through the live chat on this page or by using the hashtag #EarlyLearning on social media. Your questions will enter a moderation queue and our expert will be answering in this chat.

Diego Luna Bazaldua Excellent event!

Liviane (moderator) Apologies for the audio issues! We're working on having it fixed.

hussun What are the strategies to improve early childhood education in third world countries?

Melissa Kelly / World Bank @Hussun. Great question. This is the objective of this volume. We hope you find these strategies in the Overview and in each chapter practical and realistic to better understand ECE in your context, to plan for implementation and to monitor progress. Please check out the volume and summary briefs for more information.

Liviane (moderator) You may wonder if the report will be available in languages other than English. The answer is "Yes", the Overview chapter and briefs are being translated and will be available here. Future translations will also be available on the same page.

gertrude K N V Glad to be here. I am passionate about Early Childhood

CathyNam Link to Quality EL report is dead.

Liviane (moderator) @CatyNam: thank you for flagging that the link provided earlier didn't work. Can you try this one?

Samson Tsige How to solve children’s and youth in war thorning areas on the globe to make them lean and use them as part of the global peace-making effort?

Melissa Kelly / World Bank @Samson. Thank you for your great question. Hiro will be providing more information on how early childhood opportunities are so important in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.

Natan Tilahun Hi. Is it possible to have English translations of the current speaker? thanks

Liviane (moderator) @Natan: Apologies again for the audio issue earlier. The full interpretation will be available on this page within a day after the event.

Chibueze Nwachukwu Okeke I am Chibueze Nwachukwu Okeke, a Nigerian. I am working on this project based on building a reading culture at early age and this is a foundation to good education Excellency.

My question is, is there any platform put in place for this kind of project and if not is there any fund supporting program from world bank for this kind of project ?

Melissa Kelly / World Bank @Chibueze Thank you for your question. Please see the Read@Home page for a manual on supporting reading at home and in the community, which includes links to available open source libraries in Nigerian languages.

Winsome P What is the relationship between early childhood education and development and national development and sustainability?

Melissa Kelly / World Bank @Winsome Quality early childhood education (ECE) is one of the most important investments societies can make to help children build strong foundations that will support a lifetime of learning. Young children have enormous capacity to learn during their early years, and we must nurture and harness this capacity and ensure children’s early years are filled with high-quality, playful learning experiences. And as Hiro said, ECE can level the playing field to reduce the gap between children with fewer opportunities and their more affluent peers.

Habtamu W.yohannes What innovative local initiatives can low resource settings use to achieve equity in ECE?

Swati I would like to engage learned and intersted senior citizens in online program with the preschool and school children. Would you like to help us?

Olubunmi How do an Early Years Educator navigate successful in this present times?

Elenoa Will there be any free training for ECE?

Agyebia Want to be a volunteer, for this program, I read early childhood, and I understand how it can change lives, want to be a volunteer for my country

Fatima Ehtisham It's a good opportunity for me to attend such a valuable live streame event about early childhood education and development which is very sensitive aerea or age of we all know that most of undeveloped countries has no significant working on this stage of life which is very important, so it need very traind teachers to cope up with this amazing task. Will the world Bank helps the teacher's to learn new strategy to run an ECCE class?

Fatima Ehtisham We will thanks in advance to world Bank if they arrange workshop for teachers and head teachers to learn new techniques and keep them updated in this regard.

Megi2004 I think to reach the grassroot, u have to work with those that know more about the grassroot, evidence those not in school should be looked into.

(From LinkedIn) Paul O. I am thinking is it possible investers to utilise resources on ECD investment through scaling up Nurturing Care Framework through deliberate policy influence?

Melissa Kelly / World Bank @Paul Otwate. Yes, all components of the Nurturing Care Framework support children's healthy development and learning. There are two components of the Nurturing Care Framework that are specific to early childhood education: Opportunities for Early Learning and Responsive Caregiving to engage parents and caregivers.

AQ My question to Ms Amanda: How can we help children of displaced communities to learn a new language like English and provide a rich early learning experience?

Nasiba With high illiteracy levels in southern Africa, how do we get parents who have never been to school involved in early childhood development? How can they contribute to early learning?

Itama Okhuelegbe How do we create awareness in our community in encouraging parents to enroll their younger children in school on time.

Heidy Who must to provide the Early child education, parents or school?

Liviane (moderator) Omar Arias, Manager for Global Knowledge and Innovation in the Education Global Practice at the World Bank, provides Closing Remarks.

Tolulope Obajee How can I get well trained through worldbank as an early childhood teacher.

Liviane (moderator) We are planning regional virtual events with authors of the volume. The information will be posted on here:

Elizabeth Nganga Am Elizabeth Nganga for an early childhood educator..How can I emphasize on ECE because here in Kenya, the big challenge is inadequacy of teaching and learning resources?

Evelyn Jarua- PNG One way we empower communities in developing countries the importance of Early learning is by teaching children in their indigenous languages.

Ranjana Now a days I am facing lots of children with problems like autism, learning difficulties etc so I wants to know more about how to handle/educate them. And most of the parents does not know about their child's problem so how we can give/spread knowledge about it.

Tabitha Maina How sustainable is the Kenyan CBC system for promoting ECDE

Erum Jabir What should be the number of students in a class for two teachers in ECE setup

KeepGoing With everything we know about the critical importance of high quality early childhood learning environments, meaningful activities, partnership with parents in goals aligned between home/school and responsive teaching staff …. coupled with the realities of trained-workforce shortages, isn’t it time to be very clear about older (but still prevalent) practices that should no longer be practiced in EC programs, such as worksheets, handwriting practice, coloring sheets, emphasis on adult-dominated whole group experiences, non-authentic assessment, etc.? Is it time for leaders in the field to state clearly that all teaching staff benefit from the in-depth framework of formal training in a well-regarded and comprehensive curriculum as well as its companion comprehensive authentic assessment tool?

Anna Bhai what should be the learning outcomes in the domain of language, mathematics and socio emotional cum ethical learning?

how can we measure the learning outcomes in early childhood education?

Gertrude ECdUg How can you support ECD practioners to be able to provide early learning services in their communities?

Bezawit A. I m from Ethiopia There is a huge shortage of educational supplementary materials he havedesigned educational supplementary materials and couldn't print them due to lack of budget. How can I access support for such challenge?

Madugu Abdullahi Quality in education is begin on your policy you put on place first,Because,if there was no proper policy, Funding is a waste of resources

Getrude Chimfwembe How does the world bank assist researchers interested in finding where mathematics is in play ? This is one of the suggested further research questions coming from one of my already published articles with international journal of science and research (IJSR)

(From LinkedIn) Francis C I am from Malawi, a teacher for learners with disabilities. I am privileged to listen to the discussion.

There are some worries in supporting education of learners with disabilities e.g. learners with visual impairment that their learning materials are very expensive in developing countries such as Malawi. For example, assistive devices like Victor Readers and Orbit Readers; and Computer Braille materials such as Braille papers, embossers, and adaptive software which are not locally available and very expensive. So, can the World Bank assist these learners with disabilities in supporting them in such materials to developing countries like Malawi?

Melissa Kelly / World Bank @Francis Chataika College Lecturer at Ministry of Education. Thank you for this important question. Please visit the for information on how the World Bank's Inclusive Education Initiative is working with countries and partners to support all children's learning.

sabiranq Would like to hear from experts about the role of using digital devices for early childhood education. Use of tablets etc. is now becoming widespread.

Madonna Madonna We need more homeschool materials and options in light of covid - 19. Can we also promote the legalities and procedures of homeschool as an alternative please

Emojano Rusland The world is facing several investing challenges after the global covid pandemic, which options are available to channel enough funds to knowledge gaps when it comes to youth development?

Abir Assaad Hello. How to get this volume in hands? Can anyone have it? Buy it or use it?

Liviane (moderator) @Abir: Thank you for your question. The volume will be available to purchase soon on the World Bank Online Bookstore:

Eyob Esatu Early learning is the essence for future innovativeness. What do you suggest for countries like Ethiopia which use local language for early learning. Isn't it leading to blindness for universalized language practices in higher institutions?

Adah Patrick Eneojo What strategy can be put in place by the World Bank to improve the quality of the school feeding programme in Nigeria?

Iram Siraj it's the workforce but also the leadership of primary and pre-schools being equiped with essential staff development skills, that will help accelerate scaling

EvelynCherow Please address the critical birth-to-three yrs of age brain development focus that influence the ECE outcomes and the need for integrating health-to-education systems and a specialty workforce at community-based and professional levels, especially for those needing early identification of developmental disabilities and interventions in inclusive environments.

Natan Tilahun Is it possible to know if any of the panelists have something to say about the importance of social and behavioral change communication and advocacy interventions towards attaining quality ECD?

Carl Will this discussion be available online following the event?

Liviane (moderator) @Carl: Yes! This conversation will remain available on this event page.

Chemadi Who will be held responsible to make sure that the implementation of the pointers mentioned for early child education investment in Senegal will be executed accordingly?

mariabernardete excelent discussion about the question! thanks!

sunshine girls Thank you for this event. We need help to built school there is a lack of infrastructure in Chad

Liviane (moderator) That concludes the discussion. Thank you to all who tuned in! The recording of the event will be available shortly on this page.

Download the Quality Early Learning: Nurturing Children’s Potential volume or access the Publication page for more information.

Other resources, such as accompanying briefs to the volume, can be found on the volume’s publication page.
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