MENU menu


Early childhood (from birth to 5 yearsi ) through primary school is a critical time period for young children. The first few years of life are a period of remarkable brain development that lays the foundation for subsequent learning and development. Children in rich and poor countries alike face barriers of access and quality.

Size/Magnitude of Problem

Early childhood development (ECD) is one of the most cost-effective investments for strengthening society – reducing child mortality, violence,ii and dropout rates while enhancing intelligence scores, school completion rates, quality of health and nutrition, social intelligence, and emotional well-being.iii One year of education is estimated to increase wage earnings by 10%,iv and working adults with a primary education are 20% less likely to be poor than those without.v

  • 61 million primary-aged childrenvi (9% global ratevii) are out of school, and 250 million of the world's 650 million primary-school-age children cannot read, write or do basic mathematics.viii
  • An estimated 171 million people would be lifted out of poverty, 12% of the global total, if all students in low-income countries acquired basic reading skills.ix
  • Failure to teach children the basics costs governments $129 billion annually, or 10% of global spending on primary education, through ineffective spending.x
Desired Equilibrium

Every child has the opportunity to experience a healthy, nurturing childhood environment that creates a strong foundation of cognitive, social and emotional well-being, and for success in primary schools that further nourish the child into reaching his or her full potential.

Ways Skoll social entrepreneurs are addressing the issue:
  • Directly providing students with quality curriculum and services that improve learning (Afghan Institute of Learning, Aflatoun, Educate Girls, Khan Academy, Pratham, Room to Read, The Citizens Foundation)
  • Enabling vulnerable children left out by the system (e.g. girls, homeless children) to receive an education (Afghan Institute of Learning, Arzu, Educate Girls, Free the Children, Friends-International, GoodWeave, OneSky, Population and Community Development Association, The Citizens Foundation, Tostan)
  • Strengthening education governance through training and supporting teachers, administrators, and school systems (Escuela Nueva, New Teacher Center, Pratham, Teach for All)
  • Engaging communities as a support network to value education for all children (Educate Girls, Girls Not Brides, Nidan, Tostan)

i United Nations (link)
ii United Nations (link)
iii World Bank (link)
iv UNESCO (link)
v UNESCO (link)
vi UNESCO (link)
vii UNESCO (link)
viii UNESCO (link)
ix UNESCO (link)
x UNESCO (link)

Critical Geographies
Primary School Enrollment

As defined by SPI (< 75% of children)
Liberia, Sudan, Djibouti, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic, Senegal, Pakistan, Guinea, Mauritania, Cote d’Ivoire