Positioning Early Childhood Development as a Sustainable Development Goal Target: Challenges and Opportunities in the South Asian Context

  • Meenakshi DograEmail author
  • Venita Kaul
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 74)


In this chapter, we focus on the meaning, scope and significance of ECD, as a target (4.2) for measuring progress on Goal 4 of the SDGs which commits to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. We reflect on the comprehensive nature of the ECD target as defined in the context of the SDGs and examine the challenges and potentialities for this target to be planned for, monitored and achieved with particular reference to countries in the South Asian region. We review the status of ECD in this context, possibly as a baseline subject to data availability across countries, while also arguing on the basis of research evidence that the ECD target needs to be seen as significant not only for education but for many of the other SDGs as well. We examine the kinds of institutional mechanisms and systems needed for assessing and monitoring the quality of the ECD target along the early childhood stage and identify related opportunities and challenges. We conclude with some suggestions for the way forward which include generating data base across diverse contexts, building collaborations and regional partnerships among different stakeholders, strengthening multi-sector coordination, planning policy oriented research and ensuring outcome based monitoring.


Early childhood Early childhood development Sustainable development goals ECD in SDGs Target 4.2 Monitoring target 4.2 ECD challenges South Asian countries 


  1. Ambedkar University Delhi and National Council of Teacher Education. (2011). Preparing teachers for early childhood education. New Delhi: Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development, Ambedkar University and National Council of Teacher Education.Google Scholar
  2. Black, M. M., Walker, S. P., Fernald, L. C., Andersen, C. T., Digirolamo, A. M., Lu, C., & Devercelli, A. E. (2017). Early childhood development coming of age: Science through the life course. The Lancet, 389(10064), 77–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Britto, P. R., Engle, P. L., & Super, C. M. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of early childhood development research and its impact on global policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Dundar, H., Beteille, T., Riboud, M., & Deolalikar, A. (2014). Student learning in South Asia: Challenges, opportunities, and policy priorities. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gertler, P., Heckman, J., Pinto, R., Zanolini, A., Vermeersch, C., Walker, S., & Grantham-McGregor, S. (2013). Labor market returns to early childhood stimulation: A 20-year followup to an experimental intervention in Jamaica.Google Scholar
  6. Government of India. (2013). National Early Childhood Care and education policy (NECCEP). New Delhi: Ministry of Women and Child Development, GoI.Google Scholar
  7. Government of India. (2014). Quality standards for early childhood care and education. New Delhi: Ministry of Women and Child Development, GoI.Google Scholar
  8. Harms, T., Clifford, R. M., & Cryer, D. (2014). Early childhood environment rating scale. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  9. Heckman, J. J., Moon, S. H., Pinto, R., Savelyev, P. A., & Yavitz, A. (2010). The rate of return to the high/scope Perry preschool program. Journal of Public Economics, 94(1–2), 114–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hopkins, L., & Sriprakash, A. (2015). The ‘poor child’: The cultural politics of education, development and childhood. London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Janus, M., & Offord, D. R. (2007). Development and psychometric properties of the early development instrument (EDI): A measure of children’s school readiness. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 39(1), 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Karoly, L. A., Greenwood, P. W., Everingham, S. S., Hoube, J., Kilburn, M. R., Rydell, C. P., & Chiesa, J. (1998). What we know and don’t know about the benefits of early childhood intervention, Monograph MR-898-TCWF, RAND Corporation. Santa Monica: Rand.Google Scholar
  13. Kaul, V., Mehendale, A., & Dogra, M. (2013). Right to early childhood development: A comprehensive framework (ECED Brief-4). New Delhi, India: Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development, Ambedkar University and CARE India.Google Scholar
  14. Kaul, V., Chaudhary, A. B., Bhattacharjea, S., Ramanujan, P., Banerji, M., & Nanda, M. (2017). The India early childhood education impact study. New Delhi, India: Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development, Ambedkar University and ASER.Google Scholar
  15. Lake, A., & Chan, M. (2015). Putting science into practice for early child development. The Lancet, 385(9980), 1816–1817.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Marfo, K. (2011). Envisioning an African child development field. Child Development Perspectives, 5(2), 140–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McCoy, D. C., Peet, E. D., Ezzati, M., Danaei, G., Black, M. M., Sudfeld, C. R., & Fink, G. (2016). Early childhood developmental status in low-and middle-income countries: National, regional, and global prevalence estimates using predictive modeling. PLoS Medicine, 13(6), e1002034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Phillips, D. A., & Shonkoff, J. P. (Eds.). (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  19. Pisani, L., Borisova, I., & Dowd, A. J. (2015). International development and early learning assessment technical working paper. Save the Children.Google Scholar
  20. Raikes, H. A. (2016). Measuring of child development and learning. Background paper for Global Education Monitoring Report 2016. Retrieved from
  21. Raikes, A., Yoshikawa, H., Britto, P. R., & Iruka, I. (2017). Children, youth and developmental science in the 2015–2030 global Sustainable Development Goals. Social Policy Report, 30(3).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Rao, N., Sun, J., Ng, M., Becher, Y., Lee, D., Ip, P., & Bacon-Shone, J. (2014). Validation, finalization and adoption of the East Asia-Pacific Early Child Development Scales (EAP-ECDS). UNICEF, East and Pacific Regional Office.Google Scholar
  23. Richter, L. M., Daelmans, B., Lombardi, J., Heymann, J., Boo, F. L., Behrman, J. R., & Bhutta, Z. A. (2017). Investing in the foundation of sustainable development: Pathways to scale up for early childhood development. The Lancet, 389(10064), 103–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Save the Children. (2003). What’s the difference? An ECD impact study from Nepal. Kathmandu: Save the Children, U.S.A.Google Scholar
  25. Shonkoff, J. (2009). In brief: The science of early childhood development. Cambridge, MA: Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  26. Shonkoff, J. P., Garner, A. S., Siegel, B. S., Dobbins, M. I., Earls, M. F., McGuinn, L., & Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care. (2012). The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics, 129(1), e232–e246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. UNESCO and UNICEF. (2012). Asia Pacific end of decade notes on education for all: Early childhood care and education. Paris/New York: UNESCO/UNICEF.Google Scholar
  28. UNICEF. (2012). School readiness: A conceptual framework. New York: UNICEF.Google Scholar
  29. UNICEF, WHO, World Bank. (2012). UNICEF-WHO-World Bank joint child malnutrition estimates. New York/Geneva/Washington, DC: UNICEF/WHO/World Bank.Google Scholar
  30. United Nations. (2015). Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Version 1, September, 2015. Geneva: United Nations.Google Scholar
  31. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. (1989). Retrieved from
  32. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2000). The Dakar framework for action. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  33. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2015). EFA global monitoring report: Education for all 2000–2015 – Achievements and challenges. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  34. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2016a). Global education monitoring report: Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable future for all. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  35. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2016b). New horizons: A review of early childhood care and education in Asia and the Pacific. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  36. United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. (2017). Levels & trends in child mortality: Report 2017, Estimates developed by the UN inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. New York: UNICEF.Google Scholar
  37. Walker, S. P., Chang, S. M., Wright, A., Osmond, C., & Grantham-McGregor, S. M. (2015). Early childhood stunting is associated with lower developmental levels in the subsequent generation of children. The Journal of Nutrition, 145(4), 823–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Yoshikawa, H., & Kabay, S. (2015). The evidence base on early childhood care and education in global contexts. Background paper for EFA Global Monitoring Report 2015. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED)Ambedkar UniversityNew DelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations