Skip to main content

© UNICEF/UN0486772/Fernando León

Section 5

Implementation considerations

Jump to the tools


Now that the Education Sector Plan (ESP) and its operational plan have been developed, Section 5 focuses on implementation of the operational plan. The tools in Section 5 build on the guidance provided in the IIEP-UNESCO and GPE’s Guidelines for Education Sector Plan Preparation (page 25) and MOOC Module 5.

Figure 1. Translating the Education Sector Plan into mid-term/annual operating plans
Figure 1. Translating the Education Sector Plan into mid-term/annual operating plans

As mentioned in Section 4, to operationalize the Education Sector Plan (ESP) over the medium term, the ESP is often translated into an operational plan which is generally two to three years in length. See Figure 1. Development of a robust operational plan increases the probability of successful implementation because the plan specifies the entity responsible for implementation of each activity as well as each activity’s timing, cost, sources of financing, and related outputs. 

This multi-year action plan is then often broken down into an annual operating plan (AOP). AOPs identify the performance indicators and targets that will be achieved in the upcoming budget year. Often, the activities that will be undertaken, when these activities will need to take place, and who will be responsible for these activities is specified. The annual work plan serves as the basis for periodic progress reporting so that monitoring the medium-term plan implementation can later occur. AOPs should be closely linked to annual budgets, but these two processes are often disconnected, with AOPs being prepared without considering the resources that will be available. It is therefore important to create coherence between the structure of the plan and the structure of the budget. 

A key question is who is responsible for the overall implementation of the plan and who is responsible for specific programmes. Implementation arrangements need to also clearly articulate roles and responsibilities to ensure accountability across all levels of government. It may be necessary to set up new structures in order to coordinate implementation at different levels. 

Successful implementation of pre-primary activities requires effective coordination and alignment across all levels of government (from the national to local levels) and should be informed by the implementation arrangements established as part of the operational plan. As described in the Build to Last Framework, in many countries, the governance of pre-primary services is often decentalized/deconcentrated. At central, regional, or district levels, implementation responsibilities, including plan monitoring and oversight, need to be clarified to make sure that lower-level activities are being implemented and to determine whether any corrective actions are needed.  

In addition to ensuring that there are proper implementation arrangements in terms of ensuring responsibilities and accountability at all levels of government and considering capacity at the subnational levels, it is also important to consider strategies for the various activities being implemented.



The overall objective is to ensure effective implementation of ECE strategies and activities as articulated through the ESP operational plan.

To achieve this objective/these objectives, the following actions should take place:

  1. Review financing options
  2. Strengthen considerations related to subsector coordination
  3. Address considerations related to subnational implementation
  4. Learn about best practices regarding implementation of ECE Core Functions

Section 5 Tools

Cross-cutting considerations

Advocacy work does not end at the implementation stage. Rather, the implementation stage is yet another opportunity to ensure that the ECE components developed during the operational plan reflect the vision your country has for quality ECE. You may want to review the considerations around advocacy in Section 3 (Establish an ECE subsector vision to inform planning) and Section 4 (Develop and appraise ECE subsector plans) to ensure that your country’s aspirations for young children’s optimal learning and development are accurately reflected during this stage. Policy advocacy is particularly important because policies are purposeful mandates which guide regulation and specific courses of action as well as inform governmental approaches to a wider set of societal changes. It is a key tool for allowing long-term ownership and scalability by governments.  Ongoing advocacy work will be largely comprised of ensuring that stakeholders understand what is taking place during this implementation stage, such as understanding any new requirements that may have been developed for various parts of the sub-sector during the planning process or determining whether additional resources need to be mobilized for a specific component of the operational plan. You may also want to develop an advocacy strategy to help guide you in this process (see Tool 1.1). 

As with the planning process, it is important during the implementation phase to ensure that ECE strategies and activities are crisis-sensitive as the ESP may be implemented in crisis settings. It is important for ECE to be seen as a key part of the humanitarian response and written into Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO)sHumanitarian Response Plans (HRPs)Refugee Response Plans (RRPs). However, very few HNOs/HRPs/RRPs include specific mention of pre-primary or early childhood care and education (source).  As ECE is often not included in these plans, clear outcomes and standards need to be defined for early childhood education in emergencies, as well as determining how to deliver these services in a crisis setting, which also supports aims for  humanitarian-development coherence.

In order to achieve coherence, it is necessary to align priorities as well as clarify roles and responsibilities between humanitarian and development policy makers. Governance, oversight, and accountability over ECE for crisis-affected populations will contextually shift depending on the nature of a crisis–across the spectrum of acute to protracted settings–as well as local refugee and displaced population inclusion policies. It is important to acknowledge that populations suffering from forgotten crises or populations that aren’t encouraged to resettle often fall between lines of authorities, with ramifications for ECE implementation.

The pre-primary subsector may be included under the larger umbrella of early childhood development (ECD) when it comes to developing interventions and programming during the crisis/emergency response. A well-coordinated integrated programming approach across all sectors is needed, but requires buy-in from senior management, dedicated human resource capacity for ECD, and advocacy for the prioritization of a holistic approach to addressing young children’s needs across sectoral emergency responses (source). Different crisis and emergency contexts will call for different types of ECD programme integration. In each context, a thorough situation analysis should be used to identify the most pressing needs of young children in order to inform decisions about which sectors. Some broad considerations when looking at implementing early childhood care programming in crisis contexts include the following:

  • Seek and incorporate partner feedback
  • Develop in-depth implementation manuals for each model
  • Establish monitoring indicators and frameworks for each model
  • Build partnerships with regional and field actors and national governments
  • Integrate these models into humanitarian response planning

With regard to the last two bullet points, there should also be efforts to link these programmes to local systems for sustainability and to align with humanitarian-development coherence goals. For more information, see Childcare in humanitarian settings: Programming models for acute onset emergencies

Children living in crisis or emergency situations need early childhood care and education that can provide them with nurturing care and some degree of normality that must be of high quality, delivered by trained professionals and follow a curriculum where mental health and psychosocial support/social emotional learning (MHPSS/SEL) is in place for children who need specialized care due to experiences of stress or traumatic events. The expansion of access to ECE in emergencies is of little value if the programmes are of poor quality and do not meet children’s psychosocial needs. To achieve high-quality ECE in emergencies, governments must ensure a comprehensive and trauma-informed delivery covering curriculum, teacher training and mentoring, monitoring of teaching and learning outcomes, classroom infrastructure and materials, and school leadership (Bendini & Devercelli, 2022).

Equity is also an issue for education in emergencies at all levels. Crisis disproportionately affects women, girls, children, people with disabilities, indigenous people, asylum seekers, refugees, and other priority groups already living in vulnerable situations. There is therefore a critical need to ensure that crisis-response interventions reach marginalized groups, who face added challenges in accessing services (Calaycay, 2022, Education in Crisis and Conflict Network, 2019).

For the sources of this information, as well as additional reading, see Moving Minds Alliance’s ECD and early learning for children in crisis and conflict, UNESCO’s Early childhood care and education in emergencies and UNICEF’s Early childhood development in emergencies: Integrated program guide

Despite global gender parity in enrolment in pre-primary education, girls and boys continue to have different classroom experiences; differences that frequently reinforce gender biases, stereotypes and norms that limit and shape girls’ and boys’ educational and life possibilities. Work to strengthen education systems is needed to ensure equal access, promotion of gender equality, and tackling of unequal power relations, social norms, discriminatory practices and belief systems that underpin gender inequality, gender based violence and exclusion in society. Gender biases and stereotypes are frequently reproduced in teacher-student interactions, play, pre-primary education curricula, teaching and learning materials and parenting support initiatives. Pre-primary education has the potential to tackle gender inequalities by influencing gender socialization processes and addressing gender stereotypes and harmful gender norms at the stage when gender identity is taking shape in young boys and girls. If done well, gender transformative pre-primary education can curtail harmful social norms and stereotypes from occurring in the first place, representing a cost-effective investment given the significant resources spent on addressing gender based violence and harmful norms among adolescents and adults as well as the lost economic returns due to underemployment arising from norms and practices that mean that more than twice as many adolescent girls are not in employment education or training (NEETs) as adolescent boys.

There is an urgent need to incorporate gender-responsiveness proactively and explicitly into the design and implementation of pre-primary programmes and to promote gender-transformative strategies with a system-wide perspective. Such programming is essential to creating equal futures from the early years. As stated in the background report to the 2022 World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education, gender-transformative programming “requires attention to teacher recruitment to ensure greater gender balance in the teaching profession and improved recognition of the ECCE profession; professional development of the ECCE workforce to empower them with the knowledge and skills to create more equal learning spaces free from gender stereotypes and bias; ECCE curriculum and learning materials free from gender bias and stereotypes, which promotes gender equality; [and] teaching policies, political will and support from caregivers and parents” (p. 48).

It is also important to apply an intersectional lens when considering work in ECE, recognizing that each individual can have many identities that impact how they interact with and are viewed by society (for example, race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, sexuality). Unpacking these intersecting identities is key to understanding discrimination and exclusion and helps us to better understand barriers, challenges, and opportunities for ECE. For instance, gender issues are often compounded by intersecting identities, particularly for girls/women.


Inclusive early childhood education programmes are important as they allow children with disabilities to acquire foundational skills and to better integrate into the education system and society (source). Participation in pre-primary education can contribute to earlier identification of needs and provision of support to both children and their families and can also enhance the effects of early interventions (source).

A twin-track approach is recommended to ensure inclusive culture and programming that also responds to the specific needs of children with disabilities. In this approach, one track promotes a culture of inclusion for all learners while the other provides targeted support to learners with disabilities. There is, however, no one-size-fits-all model for disability-inclusive education. For instance, there are many different interventions that ensure education is inclusive, including making facilities accessible, providing assistive devices, and offering more complex support to children across the whole spectrum of disabilities. When it comes to implementation of such programming, it is important to remember that each child is unique and pre-primary education needs to be flexible to adapt to different cultures and contexts (source).

For the sources of this information, as well as additional reading, see Theirworld’s Left behind from the start: How governments and donors are failing children with disabilities in their early years, UNESCO’s Inclusive early childhood care and education: From commitment to action, and USAID’s Disability inclusive pre-primary education landscape review.

Finally, it is important that robust data and evidence is generated for inclusive planning and programming and for ensuring accountability. Quality data are necessary for analyzing the educational experiences of children with disabilities within the pre-primary subsector and for planning and evaluating policies aimed at increasing its inclusivity. Data need to take into account the large variance of disability and also its interaction with other key characteristics, such as gender, location, ethnicity and income (source). Where insufficient data on children with disabilities exists, a strategy should be developed to meet this need over time.

Additional Resources