Early childhood is a critically important developmental stage of human life in which a child’s brain develops rapidly. Neuro science suggests that the development of a child’s brain begins during the prenatal stage and continues after birth. A child is born with 100 billion brain cells, which need proper nurturing through early stimulation, nutrition and care to help the child in making proper neural connections/wires and pathways. The years starting from prenatal to age 8 are considered to be the critical window for optimum brain development. This period is not only important for brain development but also  for cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and language development. In particular, the first 1,000 days of a human life, the time spanning roughly between conception and one’s second birthday, is a unique period of opportunity when the foundations of  optimum health, growth, and neuro-development across the lifespan are established. In the first years of life, neurons in our brain form new connections at the astounding rate of 700–1,000 per second a pace never repeated again (UNICEF).

A sound foundation laid in the early years makes a difference through adulthood and even gives the next generation a better start. Educated and healthy people participate in, and contribute to, the financial and social wealth of their societies. Early years of childhood form the basis of intelligence, personality, social behaviour, and the capacity to learn and nurture oneself as an adult. Latest research on brain development suggests that genes provide the blueprint while the environment, early experiences and the relationships in which children are exposed to, shape the quality of their brain development. Therefore, early interventions, focussing on the achievement of milestones in this developmental stage, need to be developed and implemented as a key national priority.

ECCE is increasingly being seen as one of the most cost-efficient investments in human capital, and a key  contributor  to  sustainable  development.  Economic  analyses  from  all over the world indicate that investing in the earliest years of children’s development yields the highest rates of return to families, societies and countries. The investment case is not only made with respect to returns but also with respect to the cost of inaction. Science has demonstrated that early childhood interventions, early in  life  are  important  because  they help mitigate the impact of adverse early experiences which if not addressed lead to poor health (e.g., non-communicable diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes), poor educational attainment, economic  dependency,  increased  violence  and crime, greater substance abuse and depression all of which add to the cost and burden in society.

Globally, 250 million children are unable to meet their developmental potential in the first 5 years of their life due to a complex set of co-occurring risks and inadequate access to early interventions and children in the lower and middle-income countries, including our country, suffer the most. Implementing a comprehensive curriculum like this one as a part of early interventions, can contribute to averting this situation.



Every child should have the opportunity to grow up in a setting that values children, that provides safe and secure environment, and that respects diversity. Because children are both the present and the future of every nation, they have needs, rights, and intrinsic worth that must be recognised and supported.

Children must receive appropriate nurturing and education within and outside their families before birth and onwards, if they are to develop optimally. Attention  to  health, nutrition, early stimulation, education,  and  psychosocial  development  of  children  during their early years is essential for the future wellbeing of nations and the global community. Knowledge about human development is now more substantial than at any given point in history. The new century offers opportunities to consolidate recent gains and respond to new challenges that lie ahead. It is important to bear in mind that children, just like adults, need to be respected as capable, thinking and feeling individuals with unique personalities.

Central to the key considerations of the curriculum, to which the Government of Pakistan is signatory, is the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). A core value of the CRC is human dignity of the child. Related to this basic value, the Convention consists  of  the following four principles:

      1. Non-discrimination
      2. The child’s best interest
      3. The child’s right to life and full development
      4. Giving due weight to the views of the child

      1. EFA-Education for All


Advancement in research on education and  human  development,  highlight  the  crucial nature of the early years and its implication for a healthy and peaceful life at later stages. The world recognises the importance and need for ECCE (Early Childhood Care and Education) by endorsing expansion and  improvement  of  comprehensive  early  childhood care and education, especially for the  most  vulnerable  and  disadvantaged  children  as  a key means for creating a better world.


he Education for all declaration and subsequent reiteration at World Education Conferences has brought ECCE into the main policy discourse of more than 180 countries. As a signatory to the framework, Pakistan has also made a commitment to support ECCE programmes in the country.

      1. Commitment To achieve EFA Goals at E-9 Forum


Recognising that the ‘Education for All’ goals remains unachieved in the nine most populous countries of the world, E-9 member countries gathered to sign a commitment to strengthen collaboration with each other to improve education  standards  in  their countries. The E-9 Initiative, a consortium of the nine most populous countries of the South was put in place in 1993, following the World Conference on EFA in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990. “E” stands for education and “9” for those nine countries which are home to over half of the world's population as well as to almost half of the world’s out of school children and two thirds of the world’s illiterates: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan. The nine countries committed to pursue “with determination” the Jomtien goals and have become over the years a driving force within the Education for All partnership.

Inclusive, relevant quality Education for All” has been identified as the thematic focus for cooperation among  the  E-9  countries.  With  contribution  from  high-profile  academia from all the E-9 signatory countries, following four sub-themes have been identified:

  1. Qualifications framework and competency standards for inclusive quality education
  2. Management of teacher education and the issue of quality inclusive education
  3. Teacher education and training for inclusive quality education
  4. Financing teacher education for inclusive quality education (UNESCO, 2012)
      1. Sustainable Development Goal For Education (SDG-4)


Pakistan is also a signatory to Education 2030 vision which was adopted in the Incheon Declaration on May 21, 2015 at the World Education Forum (WEF  2015)  held  in  South Korea. The Incheon  Declaration  constitutes  the  commitment  of  the  education  community to Education 2030 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, recognizing the important role of the education as a primary driver of development.

Education 2030 proposes ways of implementing, coordinating, financing, and monitoring efforts to achieve equal education opportunities for all, outlining how the commitments made in Incheon Declaration may be translated into practice at the national and global levels. It also includes indicative strategies which countries may contextualize in the light of their national realities, capacities and their own policies and priorities. It thus presents a serious attempt at providing guidelines for overcoming deficits in implementation when global reform agendas are agreed upon.

In the post-devolution scenario of education in Pakistan, all provinces and areas have developed their respective Education Sector Plans (ESPs) and are also working on implementation plans for SDG-4 with specific focus on ECCE. In addition, the active forum of Inter-Provincial Education Ministers’ Conference (IPEMC) discusses key issues, makes recommendations and develops collaboration among all provinces and areas. IPEMC provides an excellent forum to the provinces and areas for experience sharing in implementation of two years pre-primary grades and to develop a way forward.


DG target 4.2 is directly linked with the provision of access to quality Early Childhood Care and Education or pre-primary education regardless of gender or area. Though little has been done under the slogan of EFA and efforts to introduce and implement at least one-year pre-primary education across the country, a lot remains to be done for ensuring quality ECCE across Pakistan.



Schools should be ready to accommodate and cater to the needs of all young learners by providing adequate resources including sufficient space.

Children learn best when:

        • The environment provided is secure and enabling, where teachers appreciate their previous experiences, and take them forward from where they are.
        • A partnership between home and school is valued.
        • Adults are interested in them and the interaction between them is positive.
        • They are respected; a positive self-image and high self-esteem are fostered.
        • They are motivated to be independent active learners through first hand experiences
        • They are given opportunities to make choices and decisions which develop their confidence, helping them to take responsibility of their own learning and growth.
        • Activities are planned to match their own pace, and are varied, with periods of activity and quiet reflection.
        • The experiences offered are relevant to their immediate interests and match their individual needs.
        • The programme is holistic and not compartmentalized with an established daily routine.
        • The programme is inclusive and adaptable to the diversified educational needs of the learners.


1.4.1   Holistic Development through Early Childhood Care and Education


One of the guiding principles of holistic childhood development is the unfolding process of learning which is more important than the product. It is the approach to stimulate willingness to learn rather than mere memorisation of facts and figures. Pushing children to absorb facts and knowledge will not increase their desire to learn. It will, in fact, be to the detriment of the child's development later on and his/her ability to learn effectively. Learning by doing and the very basic need to know are the main motors in stimulating children.


All educators, implementers and policy makers have a huge responsibility to ensure that children, who enter schools at age four, are given a sound learning environment. The age for pre-primary grade (04-05) specified directly connotes the existing structure of ECCE grade as Prep/Nursery/Katchi/Undakhil as prevalent across the country. This aspect is the SDG’s (SDG-4.2) indication of the need for implementation of 02 years ECCE Programme. In this regard, it may well be noted that this curriculum for ECCE has the scope to expand and a pre-primary grade for age 03-04 years can easily be derived, should the need arise. This document will provide for the baseline of such introduction of extended pre-primary grades in the Education System of Pakistan. It is important to have a fair level of understanding about the different domains of development, so that developmentally appropriate provisions can be made in response to children’s collective and individual needs.


Development is not a linear process; it is simultaneous and integrated. However, for the purposes of explanation and understanding, the domains have been compartmentalized into the following major areas.


        • Physical Development: Involves the way children use their muscles, both large and small. The large muscles are used for activities such as walking, jumping and lifting large objects. The small muscles are used for fine motor activities such as threading beads, writing, and drawing, cleaning rice and working with small objects. Exposures to activities that help in muscle development help children in doing small tasks on a daily basis. They start feeling capable of helping elders and gain confidence.
        • Social and Moral Development: Refers to those processes where children develop relationships with their culture,  with  people  around  them  and  the  environment  in general. The social setting and value system form the core  of  a  person’s  identity  children at a very young age try to figure out what is good, what is  appreciated  or beneficial, based on what they observe in their surroundings. Quality ECCE environment provides opportunities for children to form positive relationships   with other children and with elders, and to engage in conversations about social norms and ethical issues.
        • Emotional Development: Refers to the development of a child’s capacity to experience, manage and express a full range of positive and negative emotions. The development of self-esteem is critical throughout the early years. It is essential for children to have positive experiences at this stage. Feeling important, actively taking responsibility, being listened to and cared for, are essentials for creating a positive self-concept in children.
        • Language Development: Refers to the process by which children make sense of the words, symbols and information around them. Children are born with the ability to learn language but again, conducive learning environment is essential to help them develop optimally. Learning to read and write the alphabets and make small sentences is just one component of language development. Over emphasis on this component especially through rote memorization, without giving children a chance to process the information and relate it to their lives, cripples not only their language development, but also their cognitive capacities.
        • Cognitive Development: Refers to the development of mental processes and capabilities; it focuses on how children learn and process information. It is the development of the thinking and organizing systems of the mind. It involves language, imagining, thinking, creating, exploring, reasoning, problem solving, developing and rejecting ideas and concepts, memory, expression through multiple media and experimenting and applying what they learn. When they come to school, children are already equipped with the basic thinking and processing skills - they have learnt it all as part of growing up. Sound cognitive development enhances critical thinking and creativity in human beings. A conducive ECCE environment provides learning opportunities where children are given the freedom to  explore,  think,  imagine, question, and experiment, as they develop the ability to create novel ideas and solutions.
        • The World Around Us: The focus of this is on development of children’s knowledge and understanding of their environment, other people, features of the natural  and  ‘human world’. They provide a foundation for historical, geographical, scientific and technological learning
        • Health, Hygiene and Safety: It focuses on children developing physical control, mobility, awareness of space and manipulative skills in indoor and outdoor environments. They include establishing positive attitudes and  understanding  of healthy and active way of life. It encompasses children’s conception and understanding of safety measures to be taken in various situations in the surrounding.


        • reative Arts: It focuses on the development of children’s imagination and their ability to communicate and to express ideas, feelings, observations and experiences in creative ways. This includes encouraging children to think of new and innovative ideas which can be expressed through varied media.


“To educate Pakistanis to be:

        • Seekers of truth and knowledge who can apply both for the progress of society;
        • Creative,  constructive,  communicative,  and  reflective  individuals;
        • Disciplined,  productive,  moderate  and  enlightened  citizens;
        • Capable of effectively participating in the highly competitive global, knowledge-based economy and the information age; citizens committed to creating just civil society that respects diversity of views, beliefs and faiths.”


(Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan, 2006)


Recent deliberations and group discussions also yielded the recommendation of adding the following aims to augment the above-mentioned National level aims of education.

        • Empathetic & patient participants in the world around them;
        • Contributors towards building harmonious and tolerant society;


      1. A Statement of Beliefs


The principles given below carry important implications for practice:

        • Holistic development of a child is important - social, emotional, physical, cognitive and moral developments are interrelated.
        • Learning is holistic and for the young child it is not compartmentalised under subject headings.
        • Intrinsic motivation is valuable because it results in child-initiated learning.
        • The child’s sense of dignity, autonomy and self-discipline are of critical importance.
        • In the early years, children learn best through active learning (using all five senses) learning by doing.
        • What children can do, not what they cannot do, is the starting point in children's education.
        • There is potential (multiple intelligences) in all children which  emerges  powerfully under favourable conditions.
        • The adults and children to whom the child relates are of central importance.
        • The child's education is seen as an interaction between the child and the environment, which includes people as well as materials and knowledge.
        • The teacher understands the importance of inclusive education and also practices it in the classrooms.


      1. A Statement of Objectives


The National ECCE Curriculum aims to:

        • Provide for the holistic development of the child, which includes physical, social, emotional, cognitive and moral development.
        • Provide knowledge and understanding of Islam and Islamic society.
        • Develop an understanding and respect for the beliefs and practices of all other religions.
        • Develop critical thinking skills.
        • Nurture tolerance and respect for diversity.
        • Nurture in children a sense of identity and pride in being Pakistani.


        • 15

          Create in children a sense of citizenship in community, country and the world.
        • Foster a sense of independence, self-reliance and a positive self-image.
        • Equip the child with life-long learning skills.
        • Provide opportunities for active learning.
        • Provide opportunities for self-initiated play and decision making.
        • Developing values, morals, ethics and civic sense.
        • Sharpen aesthetic sense of children.
        • Develop intrinsic motivation.
        • Develop teamwork and sharing attitude.


This curriculum is divided into four chapters to ease the understanding of concepts and their implications.


Chapter 1 introduces the significance of ECCE while providing the underlying theoretical frameworks of developmental domains catered for in this document. Chapter 2 enlists the key learning areas, competencies and expected learning outcomes for each developmental domain while identifying implementable ideas for teachers, practitioners and textbook/classroom material developers. Chapter 3 provides detailed guiding principles for establishing the learning environment in an ECCE classroom, assessment and evaluation, teachers’ selection, training and continuous professional development programmes, devising roles of school administrators, parents, developing text book/materials for ECCE, and suggested timelines for future curriculum revisions and its practical implications are also included in this chapter. Chapter 4 provides the theoretical perspectives of age appropriate brain  development,  cognitive  development,  psychosocial and emotional development as well as ecological system development theories to help understand the holistic development of a child.