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© UNICEF/UN0315250/Nakibuuka

Purpose of the Toolkit

The tools currently in this toolkit are related to the first two stages – Education Sector Analysis (ESA) and Education Sector Plan (ESP) development. These are the essential foundations for all other planning and implementation. The toolkit is a “living” toolkit that will be added to over time. In the future, additional tools across the other stages of the Education Sector Planning (ESP) cycle (implementation and budget execution, annual sector reviews, etc.) will be developed. Read more about toolkit next steps here.


This toolkit aims to:

Conceptual guidance documents on Education Sector Analysis (ESA) and Education Sector Planning (ESP) already exist (either for the education sector as a whole or specific to ECE). This toolkit supports countries with operationalizing such existing guidance to integrate and strengthen ECE within the Education Sector Planning (ESP) cycle.

Toolkit Features

Why was this toolkit developed?

Children have a right to develop to their full potential over their life course. The importance of quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals, as target 4.2 calls for access to quality pre-primary education for all children.

Despite the proven benefits of ECE, at least 175 million children are not enrolled in any form of ECE. In low-income countries, 8 out of 10 children are missing out on ECE opportunities; and for those who do have access to ECE, quality is a key issue. Globally, an average of 6.6% of domestic education budgets is allocated to ECE. Moving ECE from the margins of Education Sector Plans (ESP) to their centre ensures that ECE is a part and parcel of the broader education system’s and early childhood development landscapes.

To achieve this ambition, it is important to ask a key question: How can countries effectively plan, implement, and assure quality of early childhood education at scale? To make these monumental movements and to accelerate progress, the focus on ECE must be elevated so that it is systematically integrated and/or strengthened within national budgets and cycles of education sector planning and policy implementation.

To this end, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF have partnered under the Better Early Learning and Development at Scale (BELDS) Initiative to pilot an innovative and consultative approach to strengthen national capacities to plan; cost and finance; and monitor ECE programmes and ensure that they are a crucial part of the processes for education sector planning and implementation.

The global toolkit – originally conceived as part of the BELDS Initiative – seeks to support and expand this approach, leveraging the Education Sector Planning (ESP) cycle as a key entry point and a blueprint for influencing education systems. Country experiences and expertise of global partners played a key role in informing the development of this global toolkit. Read more about how the toolkit was developed here.

Who is the target audience?

The toolkit audience consists of:

In which contexts is the toolkit applicable?

The toolkit is designed to be globally relevant and address countries’ varying needs and contexts.  This first iteration of the toolkit includes key actions and tools that may be broadly applied independent of context, whether ECE is centralized or decentralized; provided by state or non-state actors; or provided in fragile or crisis contexts.

Cross-cutting issues are highlighted for each section of the toolkit and woven into tools to help countries identify initial contextual considerations.

The toolkit recognizes that countries may, in the future, need additional tools and guidance for context specific needs. For example:

  • on establishing ECE budgeting criteria to support stakeholders in decentralized contexts in developing fit-for-purpose budgeting criteria to equitably allocate local tax revenue and other local or private funding for ECE purposes;
  • on designing and costing strategies and activities for ensuring inclusive ECE;
  • on ECE-specific crisis-sensitive planning, budgeting, and implementation to prepare governments to respond to acute crises; ensure ECE is well-reflected in transitional education plans; and engage strategically with humanitarian coordination mechanisms and actors.

Please refer to “How to Use the Global Toolkit” to identify which currently available tools may be most relevant to your current efforts.

Toolkit development process & contributing partners

November 2019
December 2019 – March 2020
January – March 2020
April – May 2020
June – August 2020
August 2020-June 2022
June 2022-March 2023
May 2023

Toolkit concept established.

November 2019

Toolkit co-creation workshop with GPE staff, BELDS pilot countries’ UNICEF focal points, UNICEF Headquarters Education Section’s Early Childhood Education Team, and a team of BELDS global technical specialists who provided in-country support throughout BELDS (planners, education economist, M&E expert, ECE specialist). This group established the toolkit “ESA/ESP ECE Journey” structure and content outline.

December 2019 – March 2020

The toolkit concept note is developed, outlining the toolkit’s purpose, objectives, audience, and content. This concept note was shared with GPE, over 20 development partners and the BELDS technical specialists’ team for feedback and inputs.

January – March 2020

The BELDS technical specialists team use the concept note as the basis to develop the first draft tools.

April – May 2020

The first draft tools were refined internally and a global external education sector planning expert was engaged to conduct a systematic review of the toolkit’s contents to ensure technical quality and coherence.

June – August 2020

Over 48 stakeholders (including global development partners, UNICEF country offices, national ECD/ECE technical working groups and independent consultants) reviewed and contributed to the toolkit by reviewing draft tools, suggesting revision of content and additional tools, and validating the toolkit.

August 2020-June 2022

Pilot use of the tools by countries participating in the GPE-KIX/IDRC project “Integrating early child education in sectoral planning”, implemented by UNICEF, the Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN), and the World Bank. Dissemination of the Toolkit took place through regional trainings and regional/global webinars.

June 2022-March 2023

Reference Group reconvened to start process of enriching the Toolkit, adding new tools and revising old ones. This was an iterative process, Ultimately, six new tools for were developed and two existing tools were revised.

May 2023

Global launch of the new tools

The toolkit was developed in 2020 through a year-long consultative process with over 48 stakeholders including:

  • Reference Group: 23 institutions represented by 30 reviewers
  • 7 UNICEF CO staff
  • 1 UNICEF Regional Office ECE Consultant
  • 3 National ECE/ECD Technical Working Groups with multiple members
  • 7 UNICEF HQ staff
  • 3 independent consultants
Agha Khan Foundation
Sweta Shah
Basic Education Coalition
Nathalie Louge (FHI 360)
Fabiola Lara (Save the Children)
Katherine Thomas (Mott Mac Inc.)
Selamawit Tadesse (CRS)
Carrie Lewis (EDC)
Kirby Henslee (BEC)
Paige Morency-Notario (BEC)
Brookings Institution
Emily Gustaffson-Wright
Sarah Osborne
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Chistina Callegari
Dubai Cares
Saeed Al Ismaily
ECD Measure
Rebecca Sayre
Shekufeh Zonji
Education Outcomes Fund
Ozsel Beleli
Global Partnership for Education
Eleni Papakosta
Christin McConnell
Carolina Valenzuela
Grace Sinaga
Anne Guison-Dowdy
Margaret Irving
Janne Kjaersgaard Perrier
Carmela Salzano
Diane Coury

The ECE Accelerator Toolkit was made possible with the financial support of Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Dubai Cares and Comic Relief, and overall leadership of Global Partnership for Education and UNICEF.

Global Toolkit Next Steps

Conceived as a user-friendly and knowledge-sharing “living platform”, all content of this global toolkit is available open-source for download, translation and contextualization.

You are an essential contributor to this dynamic resource!  Please Contact Us to share:

  • how you are using the tools,
  • ideas you have for improvements or additional tools,
  • and any other feedback you wish to provide.

In 2021-2022, improvements, identified revisions, and demand-driven additional tools and resources will be added. 

  • This will happen gradually as the global toolkit becomes widely used and lessons learned around its use emerge in partnership with governments and development partners.
  • Implementation tools will be part of the toolkit’s next expansion phase. Governments and development partners will be invited to co-create or share institutional implementation tools that may be globally relevant to add to the toolkit.
  • Cross-cutting thematic areas such as advocacy, crisis, inclusion and gender equity have “considerations” in each toolkit section currently, though could have in-depth tools developed in the future.
  • Currently, most tools are only available in English, but there are plans to make prioritized or high-demand tools available in other languages in the future.