Early Childhood Education

Publication Date



Early childhood education, Disadvantage, Quality, Child development, Equal education, Educational policy, Influences, Large scale assessment, Achievement gains, Systems, Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA), Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu


There is strong evidence supporting early childhood education (ECE) programmes as an effective way to support children to have the best start in life, especially for the most disadvantaged children. When high‐quality programmes are established – where quality is assured, and barriers to participation eliminated – large positive effects are observed that are sustained into adulthood. Indeed, substantial positive returns on public investment in ECE programmes are reported. When low‐quality programmes are taken to scale in the market, however, smaller effects or no effects are observed. This is attributed to failure to get quality right. And when quality is too low, children who stand to benefit the most get less or no access at all. The relationship between everyday ECE programmes and learning outcomes is often confounded by selection effects. For example, families with more resources can often bear higher fees, transport costs, and other barriers to choose the highest quality programmes. The more advantaged families tend to make other, non‐ECE, investments in their children’s learning, and therefore family advantage is positively correlated with both ECE attendance and learning outcomes – in this case the effect of ECE programmes are over‐estimated. Conversely, some ECE systems may be organised such that only the most disadvantaged children are prioritised in formal ECE programmes and for the same reason family advantage is now negatively correlated with ECE attendance but positively correlated with learning outcomes – in this case the effect of ECE programmes is under‐estimated, or is even negative! This report explores the impact of ECE programmes in the Pacific region and presents evidence to inform the implementation of the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF), particularly related to the development of monitoring mechanisms for school readiness. Recommendations are also made to support progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 4.2.1 and 4.1.1. This report interrogates evidence about effective ECE systems to identify levers to improve everyday programmes at scale. This evidence is compared with systems‐level reporting in the Pacific region – including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Status Report on Early Childhood Care and Education in Pacific Island Countries. Then, using the Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA), analysis is conducted to explore the strength of association between ECE participation and school‐age learning outcomes. The analysis focuses on three countries as an initial deep‐dive into student achievement and ECE participation using the PILNA results: Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. The results are then synthesised, and recommendations made.

Place of Publication

Noumea, New Caledonia


Pacific Community (SPC)





Geographic Subject

Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu


Article Location