Jan van Ravens

policy advisor for

Early Childhood Development

Welcome to my site! My name is Jan van Ravens, policy advisor.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) has been one of my main fields of work since 2008. Partly as an independent consultant and partly as an affiliate to the Child Study Center at Yale, I had the privilege and honor to support 30 low- and middle-income countries in their efforts to develop and implement policies for young children. Twelve country reports are posted below, followed by a listing of the 18 remaining countries. If you are interested in one or more reports from the latter countries, please let me know: janvanravens@hotmail.com .

A general observation from the work at country level was that the conditions for progress have been quite favorable between the turn of the century and the outbreak of COVID-19, with (i) high economic growth, not least in low-income countries; (ii) decreasing fertility rates; (iii) substantial reduction of poverty; (iv) accumulation of scientific and experiential knowledge about child development; (v) new insights into the returns on investments in child services, and (vi) enhanced global commitment to human development (MDGs, SDGs).

But progress fell short of expectations. Economic growth in low-income countries expressed itself mainly in attendance of unregistered preschools whereas the expansion of the formal system began to slow down, even globally, around 2015 and came to a standstill in 2017. Moreover, the reduction of Under-5-Mortality began to decelerate around the year 2005, especially in the poorer parts of Africa and Asia.

Under the heading Global Reports (below) you can find analyses of these trends as well as two concrete suggestions to overcome the stagnation. The first concerns the Preschool Entitlement: a locally adaptable policy instrument to expand and improve preschool education. In April 2024, a video presentation of the Preschool Entitlement won the Lightning Talk Contest organized by the Society for International Development.

The second suggestion concerns a governance concept called LAMP: Locally Adaptable Mono-sectoral Policies. LAMP is an occasional name for a widely applied governance concept that can replace “Integrated ECD”. Under LAMP, it is not the national but the local level that decides how to shape and configure public services. This requires that the national level deliver policies that are distinct (mono-sectoral) and locally adaptable. There are good reasons to expect that this will accelerate the expansion of essential child services.

The Preschool Entitlement
2023
The expansion of preschool education came to a global standstill. How can we restart it? This paper proposes a policy instrument called the Preschool Entitlement, inspired by many local initiatives around the world.
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Locally Adaptable Parenting Programs
2021
This paper is about enhancing the cost-effectiveness of parenting programs by making these locally adaptable while safeguarding quality. The proposed measures reduce human and financial resources requirements by a factor four. Costs to the government are in the order of 0.02% of GDP. This is an example of a LAMP: a locally adaptable mono-sectoral policy.
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Locally Adaptable Parenting Programs (Excel File)
2021
This Excel file supports the publication Locally Adaptable Parenting Programs that you can find hereabove. The file presents cost estimations of 76 countries.
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Expanding and Improving Early Childhood Care and Education. How Much Does it Cost?
2008
Pioneer costing study, focusing on preschool education and parenting programs. Co-author: Carlos E. Aggio, expert economist based in Buenos Aires.
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The following 12 country reports are directly available by clicking. They are followed by an overview of the remaining 18 countries. If you are interested in one of these 18 countries, please contact me at janvanravens@hotmail.com .

Serbia
2018
Serbia intends to increase preschool enrolment by means of short programs that are more cost-effective than the traditional kindergartens. An interesting feature is that the short programs do not constitute a parallel system; they function under the aegis of the kindergartens. Recent government decisions, however, tend to jeopardize this strategy. This report is written by a team from Yale University.
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Moldova
2017
Moldova has maintained a very high level of enrolment in predominantly fullday kindergarten by earmarking a part of communities’ decentralized budgets for preschool education. However, salaries for preschool staff may appear to be insufficient to sustain this situation on the long run. This report is written by a team from Yale University.
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China
2017
The Chinese Development Research Foundation (CDRF) held a conference in Beijing in October 2016 to explore the possibility of universalizing “early learning” opportunities nation-wide. This report is based on a presentation at that conference, addressing both parenting programs and preschool education. Given the scale of the country, this brief report only provides a general response to the CDRF’s question.
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Azerbaijan
2016
Azerbaijan has been very successful in increasing preschool enrolment in a relatively short period of time. Here you find two reports (in one Word-file) that describe that process.
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Timor-Leste
2015
The NGO community in Timor-Leste has developed a great strategy to continuously create new ECD centers, which the government would “take over” after a few years by formalizing and funding them. Drafted by a team from Yale, this report shows how this mechanism can be instrumental in scaling up preschool education.
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Bosnia and Herzegovina
2014
Great support was received from the national UNICEF office in exploring the possibilities for expanding prechool education in this strongly divided country. The report contains some ideas on how to reach out to remote communities with small numbers of children.
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Uganda
2013
Jointly with Professor Jere Behrman, we developed scenarios for the expansion of preschool education in Uganda, including a benefit-to-cost analysis. The mission to Uganda revealed very important insights in local dynamics around community-based ECD centers. Please begin by reading the “Guidance to the Reader” paragraph on the title-page.
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Panamá
2012
This report would not have been possible without the excellent work by the national UNICEF office to involve policy makers. The policy was donor-initiated but soon became government-owned. The report was directly drafted in Spanish; no English version is available.
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Nigeria
2011
While official statistics suggested that few children in Nigeria were attending preschool in 2011, data from a household survey indicated that many are attending unregistered preschools. Under-age enrolment in primary school was also prominent. The situation found in Nigeria was one of the sources of inspiration for the idea of a Preschool Entitlement (see global reports).
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Kyrgyzstan
2010
This report benefited strongly from the excellent dialogue and cooperation between government and donor community. Two innovations by the Aga Khan Foundation will always remain an inspiration: the Jailoo (mountain meadow) kindergarten that travels with semi-nomadic communities, and the satellite model with a central kindergarten that supports smaller establishments in its vicinity (home-based and school-based).
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Macedonia
2010
The UNICEF national office in Macedonia has been very dedicated to making preschool education available for more children than just the happy few. It has been an honour to support this process by means of this report. (The country’s name is now North-Macedonia).
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Tanzania
2010
This report illustrates the enormous complications that come with attempts to implement a donor-driven “integrated ECD” policy in a country where ECD services are fragile and scarce. On the title-page, a comment has been inserted to elaborate this point.
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The 18 remaining countries:

Albania, Armenia, Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Laos, Montenegro, Nepal, Pakistan, Perú, Romania, Sudan, Uzbekistan.

Contact me.

For any questions, please contact me at janvanravens@hotmail.com.
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Jan van Ravens

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