Indicator 31. Percentage of children (36-59 months) receiving at least one year of a quality pre-primary education program

Rationale and definition:

This indicator measures the percentage of children in the 36-59 months age group that are enrolled in an early childhood program. Programs can be defined fairly broadly ranging from private or community care to formal pre-school programs.

This is an important indicator for measuring child development. Exposure to at least a year of high- quality pre-primary education has consistent and positive short-term and long-term effects on children’s development. In the short run, early cognitive skills, including reading and math skills, are positively affected by pre-primary education. In low- and middle-income countries, access to quality pre-primary education increases the share of students who enter primary school on time. High-quality preschool can produce lifelong benefits for society, with positive effects observed on years of completed schooling, secondary school completion, reduced crime, reduced early pregnancy, and increased earnings. These results encompass both small-scale demonstrations and large-scale programs, and are responsible for the impressive benefit-cost ratios for preschool (6 or larger, across high-, middle-, and low-income countries). Pre-primary education benefits all children, no matter their economic background, yet as with many other ECD services, those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds benefit the most.1


By sex, location, and household income.

Comments and limitations:

The indicator is less helpful in measuring the quality of pre-primary education care. Quality standards of structure (safety, access to clean water, small group sizes, etc.) and process (instructional and interactive skills of the teacher or caregiver) are important for children’s learning and development, but much harder to measure.

Preliminary assessment of current data availability by Friends of the Chair:


Primary data source:

Household surveys, including the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS).

Potential lead agency or agencies:


  1. Myers, R (1992). The twelve who survive: Strengthening Programmes of Early Childhood Development in the Third World. London, UK: Routledge.