IEA International Early Childhood Education Study (ECES)


The IEA International Early Childhood Education Study (ECES) is a new comparative research program of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). The purpose of ECES is to explore, describe and critically analyze early childhood education (ECE) provision and its role in preparing children for the learning and social demands of school and wider society. In this context, ECE is defined as formal group education and care provision outside the home for young children from birth up to the age of primary education. In particular, the study will aim to provide meaningful information for countries, states and jurisdictions across the world in relation to how ECE contributes to children's outcomes.


The objectives of the study are to:

  • Explore systematically, document, analyze the worldwide diversity of responses, meeting the challenge of supporting, educating and preparing our youngest citizens for school and wider society;
  • Map the systems, structures and user pathways in place, along with the perceptions of stakeholders about the system, its functioning and impact;
  • Measure the outcomes of ECE in preparing children for school and lifelong learning;
  • Examine the relationships between policy aims, ECE provision, family background and child outcomes;
  • Inform the development of high quality and inclusive ECE policy both nationally and internationally;
  • Provide a framework for countries to benchmark their ECE systems in an international context. 

The study is divided into two phases:


Phase 1 establishes policy context for ECE in the participating countries by gathering a rich array of data about the policy aims and goals for ECE; delivery models and providers; access and participation; quality (e.g. staff qualifications and training, group sizes); and expectations for outcomes.


Phase 2 of the study aims to collect information on children's competencies at the end of early childhood education complemented by contextual data on ECE settings, leaders/managers, practitioners and parents.


While Phase 1 is currently being conducted, Phase 2 of the study has been put on hold until a sufficient number of countries commit to the study.



News & Events
+++Announcement: Release of IEA ECES Policy Report+++

We are delighted to announce that this report has been made available online here.


Educational policymakers around the world increasingly recognize the strong positive impact that early childhood education (ECE) can have on children’s further development. The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) launched its Early Childhood Education Study (ECES) to explore, describe, and analyze early childhood education provision, and its role in preparing children to learn and function both in school and society. This comprehensive study of wider ECE policy contexts includes teacher/practitioner qualifications, pedagogy approaches, and opportunities for professional development.


This report provides an overview of ECE policy strategies (from birth to the start of primary schooling) in eight countries: Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Poland, the Russian Federation and the United States. These countries ably illustrate some of the differing approaches to ECE policies worldwide, as well as recent and impeding changes in a range of diverse contexts. Analyses of the systemic and structural results of ECE policy strategies at both national and, where applicable, subnational levels, enable the reader to review ECE systems in an international context. Key findings cover five policy areas: public policy; delivery models and providers; participation and enrollment; quality assurance systems; and expectations for child outcomes.