The first-ever UNICEF's report regarding early childhood education has revealed a considerable lack of investment in the majority of countries around the world. As many as 50 percent of pre-primary-age children - about 175 million - are not enrolled in education, suffering deep inequalities from the start. The picture is even much worse in low-income countries, where as few as 1 in 5 children benefit from a preschool or kindergarten education.

According to UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, “Pre-primary schooling is our children’s educational foundation – every stage of education that follows relies on its success. Yet, too many children around the world are denied this opportunity. This increases their risk of repeating grades or dropping out of school altogether and relegates them to the shadows of their more fortunate peers.”

However, studies have shown that children following at least one year of preschool are more likely to develop the fundamental skills they need to succeed at school and are less likely to repeat grades or drop out of school later. Actually, children enjoying a pre-primary education are more than twice as likely to develop good early numeracy and literacy skills than children missing out on the same early learning opportunities.

In summary, the numbers speak for themselves: Today, in 64 countries out of 195 worldwide, the most disadvantaged kids are seven times less likely to attend preschool programs than their peers from more advantaged families.

Picture: Ermita, Cebu City, Philippines (