10% funding for pre-primary years

A funding shortfall

175 million children around the world receive no early childhood education, and only 0.5% of international education aid addresses the early years. Yet the importance of the first five years of a child’s life is clear: it’s when 90% of brain growth takes place, and as a result those years lay the foundation for the rest of a person’s life.

It’s why Theirworld believes every child deserves the best start in life, including a healthy birth, and quality and inclusive early childhood education.

Theirworld works tirelessly to raise the profile of the importance of the early years because, to reach every child, the international community needs to commit more financial support.

In 2016 we began campaigning in earnest for pre-primary education and development by publishing a series of reports highlighting the shortfall in donor funding, and starting the #5for5 campaign. The campaign and associated petition highlighted the five components of a safe and nurturing childhood that set a child up for life: nutrition, health, learning, play and protection.

Helped by plenty of celebrity support, the #5for5 campaign called on world leaders to take urgent action to make sure all children, especially the most disadvantaged, have access to the full range of nurturing care.

90% of a child’s brain development takes place in the first five years of life

We built on the momentum with a series of reports in 2017 that further illustrated the concerning gap in funding for pre-primary education and development. 

In ‘Theirworld Donor Scorecard: Just Beginning’ we demonstrated that while aid for under-fives’ requirements had increased generally, early years education funding lagged considerably behind components such as health and nutrition. 

With early childhood development comprising less than 1% of all education aid, Theirworld boldly asked for governments and organisations to individually aim for 10%. This level of commitment would put the world on course to be able to provide a minimum of two years of pre-primary education for every child on the planet.


Impact

Theirworld’s campaigning and advocacy work paved the way for UNICEF to set a new benchmark in early childhood education and development funding. Their commitment of 10% of their education aid budget contrasts sharply with the less than 1% of international aid that currently goes to early years education. Other global funds are also making progress towards the goal, including Education Cannot Wait and the Global Partnership for Education.

Committing to a better future

With early childhood development comprising less than 1% of all education aid, Theirworld boldly asked for governments and organisations to individually aim for 10%. This level of commitment would put the world on course to be able to provide a minimum of two years of pre-primary education for every child on the planet.

In 2019 our campaign offered the world the chance to join our mission. We created a petition which allowed people to declare that they, like Theirworld, believed that the 175m children denied early years education and development deserved a better start in life.

Spread far and wide by our Global Youth Ambassadors, the petition was submitted to donors such as UNICEF and the World Bank, pointing out that for the most disadvantaged children each dollar invested in early childhood care and education could lead to a return as high as $17.

Later in 2019, UNICEF made the breakthrough decision to invest 10% of its education budget in early learning. Announcing the commitment, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore summed up the importance of the move succinctly: “Quality pre-primary education is the foundation of a child’s learning journey: every stage of education that follows relies on its success.”

While Theirworld warmly welcomed this new benchmark, our sights are now set on appealing to fellow donors to match it. While some, such as the Global Partnership for Education, have signalled their intention to devote more funding towards early years education, there remains a lot more that the international community could do. We’re going to continue to act boldly as we campaign for donors around the world to commit to a better future for every child.

We’ve also put our weight behind another bold solution which will potentially unlock billions in early years funding. The International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) aims to fill the persistent education funding gap through partnership between developing countries, international financial institutions and public and private donors.

Theirworld’s Global Youth Ambassadors spearheaded an advocacy campaign to back IFFEd which resulted in 1.5 million signatures being delivered to the United Nations, and countries committing to set up the Facility which aims to raise $10 billion by 2030.

Theirworld’s vision is to end the global education crisis and unleash the potential of the next generation. For that to happen every child needs to be able to count on the best start in life, including a healthy birth and quality and inclusive early childhood education.

That’s why we’re going to keep asking international donors to commit 10% of their education funding towards the early years. We’ll keep fighting for this because it’s what every child deserves, and because without it more than 175 million children will continue to be left behind.

Every child deserves the best start in life

90% of a child’s brain develops in the first five years of life.

It’s a crucial time in their life when we should be investing in their education – yet tragically, there is a woeful lack of spending on pre-primary education

If we’re going to ensure that every child has the best start in life then we need action now. That’s why we’re campaigning for global organisations and governments around the world to ensure early childhood education gets 10% of their education budget.

If you agree that we need to focus on early years education funding, then say you’re with us.

Say you're with us