In recent years the provision of early childhood education services around the globe has grown considerably.
In 2001, 63 per cent of three- and four-year-olds in the developed world were enrolled in school. Between 2005 and 2011 the number of three-year-olds enrolled rose from 64 per cent to 70 per cent, and the number of four-year-olds enrolled jumped from 78 per cent to 84 per cent.
Early childhood education is associated with better performance in school: the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has found that 15-year-olds who attended at least one year of pre-primary school perform better on mathematics and reading tests than those who did not.
Parents' need to work is, in part, driving the growth in early education, and the quality of that education has become a policy priority.
For the developing world, early education is seen as important in breaking the cycle of poverty, with the pre-primary gross enrolment rate in South Asia nearly doubling between 2000 and 2010 to 48 per cent.
164m children were enrolled in pre-primary education worldwide in 2010
SHARE OF TOTAL PRE-PRIMARY ENROLMENTS IN 2010, BY REGION
East Asia and Pacific - 24.3%
Europe and Central Asia - 6.4%
Latin America and the Caribbean - 12.5%
Middle East and North Africa - 2%
South Asia - 29.1%
Sub-Saharan Africa - 7.6%
High income countries in all geographic regions - 18.1%
Source: The World Bank (bit.lyPre-primary).