OECD Report: Early childhood education and care workforce

What can be done to ensure high quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC)? The OECD conducted the first international survey focused on the workforce in ECEC and presents four suggestions to policy makers.

What can staff who work with young children tell us about quality in early childhood education and care? The “TALIS Starting Strong Survey 2018” of the OECD summarizes answers of early childhood education and care (ECEC) staff and leaders in nine participating countries and presents four policy suggestions based on ECEC workforce replies.

Policy implications

The findings presented in the report suggest four major objectives for policies to ensure high quality ECEC:

  1. Promoting practices that foster children’s learning, development and well-being: This points to pre-service and in-service education and training programmes that can support staff in their use of relevant practices, well-designed curriculum frameworks, and flexible organisation of activities that ensure interactions of staff with small groups of children.
  2. Attracting and retaining a high-quality workforce: This points to policies that can raise the status of the profession through adequate salaries, reduced sources of instability and stress, and access to relevant and flexible professional development opportunities.
  3. Giving a strong start to all children: This points to policies that ensure access to high quality ECEC for children facing greater barriers, prepare staff to adapt their practices to the needs of children with different characteristics, and allocate resources to provide additional support where required.
  4. Ensuring smart spending in view of complex governance and service provision: This points to policies to identify and agree on the spending priorities, develop assessment and monitoring frameworks that support quality, and empower ECEC centre leaders.

Policies to raise the quality of ECEC face a number of trade-offs in terms of the areas to invest in and the areas to spend less on. TALIS Starting Strong sheds light on what could be priorities for each country. The report also suggests flexible and co-ordinated approaches that can be less costly and easier to implement than radical changes.

Interactions between children and ECEC staff

One of five chapters of the survey focuses on the interaction between children, the ECEC staff as well as parents or guardians. Around 70% of staff report regular use of practices facilitating children’s socio-emotional development (such as encouraging children to help each other) or practices facilitating children’s language development (such as singing songs or rhymes). Specific practices emphasising literacy and numeracy (such as playing with letters or playing number games) are used to a lesser extent.

Related to this, the ability to co-operate easily with others is at the top of the list of skills and abilities that ECEC staff regard as important for young children to develop. Exchanging information with parents regarding daily activities and children’s development is common. Yet smaller percentages of staff report encouraging parents to play and carry out learning activities at home with their children.

Knowledge gap in ECEC

The OECD “TALIS Starting Strong Survey 2018″ asks ECEC staff and leaders in nine participating countries (Chile, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway, and Turkey) about their characteristics, the practices they use with children, their beliefs about children’s development and their views on the profession and on the ECEC sector.

While research suggests that the education we receive in early childhood matters most for our lives, early childhood education and care (ECEC) is the sector of education we know least about. That is the gap the OECD TALIS Starting Strong Survey seeks to fill.