Training for staff in early childhood education and care must promote practices that foster children’s learning, development and well-being

children 19

(Robert Collins, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with OECD.


Countries need to ensure that the early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce is prepared for the demands of working with young children in order to give a strong start to all children.

Based on the OECD’s Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS Starting Strong), a new OECD report, Providing Quality Early Childhood Education and Care, finds that training specifically to work with children is not always included in ECEC staff education. The report also notes that staff who have been trained specifically to work with children report using more practices that can facilitate children’s learning and development in a wide range of areas.

TALIS Starting Strong is the first international survey of the ECEC workforce. About 15,000 ECEC staff members and nearly 3,000 ECEC leaders from nine countries (Chile, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway, and Turkey) took part in the Survey. It aims to document the backgrounds, education and training of staff and leaders across countries, as well as their pedagogical and professional practices.

“High quality early education and care is essential for children, families and societies, but it is also an area where we knew very little about the people providing this education and care and their day-to-day experiences,” said Ludger Schuknecht, OECD Deputy Secretary-General.

“We take it for granted that all children attend school, but enrolment in early childhood programmes varies greatly across countries and provision is often fragmented. We need to better understand the services available to families during the critical early childhood period,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills.

The results of the Survey also show that in all participating countries staff identify a strong need for continued in-service training, particularly for working with children with special needs. The most common barrier to participation in professional development, as reported by 56% of staff in pre-primary education, is a lack of personnel to compensate for absences. Staff with higher levels of pre-service education are also more likely to participate in professional development activities.

Other key findings include:

ECEC staff profile

Over 95% of staff in ECEC centres are women. Their education and training varies across countries, but a majority of the workforce has post-secondary education. Staff generally like their jobs, but not their pay: in all countries, fewer than four in 10 staff are satisfied with their salaries.

Common practices used by staff

Across countries, staff report making broad use of practices to facilitate children’s socio-emotional development (such as encouraging children to help each other) or practices to facilitate children’s language development (such as singing songs or rhymes). Staff use of practices to support children’s literacy and numeracy development, however, is more varied across countries.

Staff views on what governments should do for early childhood education and care

Reducing group sizes, improving staff salaries and receiving support for children with special needs are top spending priorities for staff if the sector’s budget was increased. These spending priorities also reflect staff’s top sources of work-related stress.
Leaders of ECEC centres also say that inadequate resources for their centres and staff shortages are the main barriers to their effectiveness.
The report outlines several implications for ECEC policies, including:

  • Promoting practices in ECEC that foster children’s learning, development and well-being, including by offering applied education and training programmes.
  • Attracting and retaining a high-quality workforce, for example by reducing sources of stress and instability in the profession.
  • Giving a strong start to all children by allocating resources to provide additional support where needed.
  • Ensuring smart spending in view of complex governance and service provision, for example by developing monitoring frameworks that support quality and empower ECEC leaders.

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