Early childhood is a crucial phase of human life, where a child is most receptive to learning. It has been proved that human brain has the capability to learn the most from birth to five years of age. An overwhelming number of research studies reveal highly positive effect of Early Childhood Education (ECE) on the success of children in the later stages of their educational career. Evidences show that preschool education programs produce long term improvements in school success, including higher test scores, low dropouts and higher educational attainment. Some studies even appear to assert that preschool programs play a critical role in character building and in reduction of delinquency and crime in childhood and adulthood. Keeping in view these multifaceted benefits of ECE, it is been in practice in many developed countries since decades. However if we sketch a map of ECE in developing countries we can safely reach to a conclusion, that it is only accessible to a certain quarters of the population and a large majority still does not have access to ECE owing to multiple reasons.
Looking around in the contemporary world of education, Early Childhood Education (ECE) is one of the most debated topics and its importance can be verified from the fact that after the expiration of the time period of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and with the introduction Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ECE has been set as one of the prioritize areas to work on. It has been promised by the world’s leaders to make it accessible to all the girls and boys by 2030. Since developed countries have already done quite significant amount work in this regard, but the suggested target is a bit challenging for the low income developing countries in the face of multi dimensional barriers.
Pakistan is also one of the signatory countries of sustainable development agenda and has vowed to provide Early Childhood Education (ECE) for all the children in the country by the end of the target period. With this ambitious promise Pakistan needs to be aware of the current status ECE in the country. If we make a glance at the evidences of ECE in Pakistan, it illustrates a very grim image. ASER Pakistan the largest household survey which gathers data on several education indicators indicate that in 2015 only 37 percent of children aged (3-5 years) were enrolled in pre- school in rural areas of Pakistan. The time series analysis of ASER from 2011 to 2015 data also reveals no considerable positive change in the enrollment in ECE.
In the aforementioned situation and being a part of the global agreement of providing Early Childhood Education (ECE) to all the children by the end of 2030 and it is essential for Pakistan to make great strides to keep the same pace with other signatory countries. Considering the fact that Pakistan has already failed to be up to the mark with regard to most of the MDGs, now it is vital to demonstrate seriousness from the higher quarters including political leaders and policy makers. Although there are several barriers towards this destination but the financial limitations is the major problem for Pakistan. In this scenario, it is the responsibility of all the relevant elements including Non profit and Civil Society Organizations to extend their fair shares of contribution to shoulder the government.
While discussing this subject matter it is necessary to bear in mind the fact that for majority of the folks in the third world countries like Pakistan, it will appear to be a strange phenomenon making them reluctant to send three year old children to schools. To address this obstacle a joint venture of campaign to spread awareness pertaining to the importance of ECE should be instigated by the government and other stakeholder organizations to make the people aware of the worth of it. It is obvious that, it is not an easy task to address these issues of education amidst several challenges including rampant terrorism and political instability with having no prediction of end. But I firmly believe in this old English proverb “If there is a will, there is way”.
Biography: Ijaz Ul Haq did his masters in Economics from Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) Islamabad in 2011. Since then he has been working in social sector with different organizations. Currently he is working as a Research Associate with ASER Pakistan in Peshawar office. He can be reached at