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The first five years of children’s lives are crucial to their development. During this period, children learn at a faster rate than at any other time in their lives, developing basic cognitive and socio-emotional skills that are fundamental for their future achievements in school and later on as an adult. These skills are also the foundation for their general well-being – how they interact with others, and how they cope with future successes and setbacks, professionally and in their personal lives. And in order to foster this development, children require ongoing interaction with, and care and attention from their parents and other caregivers.

For this reason, early childhood education also plays an important role. Research findings show that high quality early childhood education and care programmes provide long-term benefits for both cognitive and socio-emotional skills, prompting many countries to increase the number of such programmes in recent decades. Moreover, there is growing interest in enhancing the quality of early childhood education programmes and children’s home environments in order to give every child a strong start early on.

Empirical research, however, is still limited on how children’s competences develop and are interconnected at an early age. Likewise, it is important to gather more information on influential environmental factors at home and in early childhood education programmes that promote or deter children’s development. There is also no common framework and comparable empirical information on these topics across national jurisdictions, which is limiting peer-learning and sharing of best practices across countries.

As a consequence, a group of OECD countries initiated an international study on children’s early learning. The International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study was subsequently launched to repond to this demand, to help countries to better support children’s early development and improve their long-term well-being.