Early Childhood Learning

An inclusive, equitable and quality learning environment where every child experience playful, and protective learning experiences underscores the future where children finish their primary education transition to secondary and university and graduates. This is what EIC imagines for every child and youth whose education is in crisis.

The foundation once well built, accelerates the development of the full structure and so it is with quality pre-primary education of a child’s educational journey that every stage of education once they follow it right, will result into their success while pursuing their careers. Yet, despite the proven and lifelong benefits, more than 175 million children according to UNICEF nearly half of all pre-primary-age children globally are not enrolled in pre-primary education.


Early Childhood Development (ECD) is a period of rapid and critical development – from conception to 8 years. Quality nurturing care during this period – adequate nutrition, good health, protection, responsive caregiving, and early learning – is vital for children’s physical, cognitive, linguistic, and social-emotional development.

During a period of brain development in children: Approximately 90% of the brain’s growth occurs within the first 5 years of life and about 80% of that growth occurs within the first 2 years of life. Research indicates that children who are deprived from nurturing and responsive care and who lack opportunities to play, communicate and explore have smaller brains and fewer neural connections.

Globally millions of children are missing out on the benefits that quality ECL can bring. An estimated 250 million children (43%) younger than 5 years in low and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential because of extreme poverty and stunting. For children growing up in crisis contexts – including an estimated 87 million children under the age of 7 who have spent their entire lives in conflict zones – the risk is even greater.

The inclusive provision of early childhood education for all children, including the most vulnerable crisis-affected, has major equalizing potential. Gender equitable ECL is a precursor to gender equitable learning outcomes throughout the learning cycle. Most importantly, play can protect children in situations that demand resilience, adaptivity and ability to cope in healthy ways – and offers in-roads to development and participation, especially for children with disabilities.

ECL provides early learning opportunities that support better learning and improved life chances in adulthood: Robust evidence shows that participation in pre-school education sets strong foundations for future learning and life chances, as it promotes cognitive and emotional development. It is particularly important for the most marginalised children and is key for tackling the challenges of equity and quality necessary to achieve sustainable development goal 4 (SDG4).

In humanitarian situations, multiple adversities threaten children’s ability to flourish and reach their full potential. These include increased risk of separation from parents or primary caregivers, physical injury, loss of the stability and comforts of home and community and experiencing or witnessing violence. Additionally, experiences of conflict and crisis can deprive young children of the stable, responsive, and nurturing care they need. Experiences of extreme stress during the critical first years of life can have long-term, negative impacts on the child’s future learning, behavior and health. Exposure to repeated or prolonged challenging circumstances can result in ‘toxic stress’ which can hinder brain development, limiting cognitive ability with long lasting and profound impacts.

As a result, children in humanitarian crises are not likely to receive ECL services and caregivers and the wider community are unlikely to be trained to effectively engage and support play-based activities with young children. Consequently, children’s potential for learning in the early years is not realized, contributing to inefficiencies in the formal education systems which further contributes to poor education outcomes.


“Prioritizing capacity building of learning institutions to strengthen delivery of holistic, play-based, and caregiver-engaging early learning remains foundational stone in ECL”.

A structured approach to implementing early childhood learning effectively by EIC is anchored in coordination mechanisms, empowerment of teachers and improvements of learning institutions, engagement of parents and community leaders, and children. To reach every child, young people, and youth with learning opportunities, strengthening policies that protect, develop, and nurture them is crucial.

ECL helps mitigate toxic stress that can result in permanent long-term damage: The destabilizing effect of emergencies can greatly decrease a child’s ability to fight against the accumulating effects of stress.  When stress accumulates it can become toxic. Toxic stress has shown to change a person’s chemical makeup, affecting not only the body, but also the brain. ECL in emergencies programming can mitigate the deleterious effects of stress.

Needs Assessment: Conduct a thorough assessment of the community’s needs, including the number of young children, existing educational resources, socio-economic factors, and cultural considerations. This assessment will inform the design and implementation of early childhood programs tailored to the specific context.

Curriculum Development: Develop a developmentally appropriate curriculum based on the principles of early childhood education, including play-based learning, social-emotional development, language acquisition, and cognitive skills. The curriculum should be flexible, culturally sensitive, and aligned with local learning goals and standards.

Teacher Training and Capacity Building: Provide comprehensive training and ongoing support for early childhood educators to ensure they have the knowledge, skills, and resources to effectively implement the curriculum. Training should cover child development, teaching strategies, classroom management, and creating inclusive learning environments.

Infrastructure and Resources: Establish safe, child-friendly learning environments equipped with appropriate materials, toys, books, and educational resources. Ensure that facilities meet health and safety standards and are accessible to all children, including those with disabilities.

Parental and Community Engagement: Engage parents, caregivers, and community members in the early childhood education process through outreach, education, and involvement opportunities. Encourage active participation in children’s learning, including home-based activities, parent workshops, and family literacy programs.

Monitoring and Evaluation: Implement a system for monitoring and evaluating the quality and impact of early childhood programs. Collect data on attendance, child development outcomes, parental involvement, and program effectiveness to inform continuous improvement efforts and ensure accountability.

Partnerships and Collaboration: Forge partnerships with government agencies, NGOs, local authorities, and other stakeholders to leverage resources, expertise, and support for early childhood education initiatives. Collaborate with health, nutrition, and social services providers to address the holistic needs of young children and their families.

Sustainability Planning: Develop a sustainability plan to ensure the long-term viability of early childhood programs. This may include securing funding sources, building local capacity, fostering community ownership, and integrating early childhood education into broader education and development frameworks.


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