Expanding early childhood care and education: how much does it cost?: a proposal for a methodology to estimate the costs of early childhood care and education at macro-level, applied to the Arab States

Expanding early childhood care and education: how much does it cost?: a proposal for a methodology to estimate the costs of early childhood care and education at macro-level, applied to the Arab States

Analysing the costs and benefits of investing in early childhood care and education in the Arab States

The report analyses the cost associated with expanding early childhood care and education (ECCE), using the Arab States as the case study region. According to the report, particularly in this region, high levels of grade repetition and drop out rates call for urgent expansion of ECCE.

The report argues that establishing unit costs – the average cost per child per year – is a balancing act between the necessity of ensuring a minimum level of quality and the need to reach as many children as possible on a given budget.

This report distinguishes two main modalities of ECCE provision:

  • regular programme delivery, for the ‘older’ children in the early childhood age group
  • home visiting (understood here as providing expert support to groups of parents), mainly during the earliest ages.
The report develops normative models for both modalities, based on assumptions and choices that the authors have made after consultation with experts and a literature review. However, these normative models are flexible and can be altered; therefore this report should not be seen as a final statement but as the start of a dialogue.

The report focuses mostly on the poorest countries in the region on the grounds that the case for foreign assistance is strongest there. It found that the costs of achieving education for all (EFA) in the Arab States may be in the order of magnitude of US$ 750 million annually until 2015. However, this figure must be treated with utmost caution, since it excludes a number of countries for lack of data and it relies on a series of assumptions.

In conclusion, the report states that children in the Arab States, in general, are not benefiting from ECCE to a degree that would be acceptable in light of the important advantages of it. The region as a whole may be generating enough wealth to be able to accelerate progress of EFA, but, as demonstrated by the report various individual countries may not. Presently ECCE is nearly non-existent in some countries, while in one case there is even an alarming decrease of enrolment. High drop-out rates in primary education in some of the countries indicate that investment in ECCE is very urgently needed and will largely pay itself back.