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Early Childhood and Education

The Open Society Foundations believe all children should have the developmental support they need, and the fullest possible educational opportunities.

$21.3M 2019 budget for Early Childhood and Education
2.0% Percentage of global budget
4.3% Average annual change in budget since 2016

2019 Early Childhood and Education Budget by Region


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      Explore our full budget by theme and region

      Our Work

      Our support for early childhood and education is grounded in a commitment to social justice and human rights. We focus on supporting children and parents who face profound disruption, or systemic discrimination—including refugees and migrants, children with disabilities and developmental delays, and those from the Roma community.

      Our early childhood work takes a broad developmental approach, backing the provision of services such as parenting support, as well as mother and baby well-being initiatives. We also invest in building networks and institutions to share best practices and new models for early childhood development at a global, regional, and country level.

      We continue to promote child-centered high-quality schooling and teacher training, while seeking to strengthen good governance and accountability across educational institutions and systems.

      A mother holding a baby in classroom.
      A Roma mother and her six-month-old baby in a preschool classroom in Vranje, Serbia on June 23, 2018. © Vladimir Zivojinovic for the Open Society Foundations

      Birth and Early Years

      A woman standing at a door.
      A county health officer at the Well Baby clinic in Buchanan, Liberia on June 15, 2016. © Kate Holt/eyevine/Redux

      In Liberia, the Early Childhood Program supports Big Belly, an NGO that promotes good nutrition and health care during pregnancy, while our Healthy Start for Roma initiative seeks to reduce infant mortality rates in Central and Eastern Europe that are twice as high as for non-Roma populations. In Zimbabwe, we are supporting a local NGO that is creating a local model for Reach Up!, a global training approach for home visitors aimed at supporting new parents, and improving the health and well-being of children up to two years old. 

      Step by Step

      Our early childhood work dates from 1993, when George Soros launched a $100 million initiative to respond to the rapid collapse of state-run preschool systems in 15 former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. This led to the creation of the Step by Step early childhood curriculum and training program, now advanced by an independent association whose members include over 80 educational groups and active in over 40 countries. 

      Education for All

      Young children standing in line.
      Young students at a school in the delta village of Sinchan, Myanmar on December 19, 2012. © Ed Kashi/VII for the Open Society Foundations

      Around the world, our Education Support Program, together with the Human Rights Initiative and the Open Society Justice Initiative, support efforts to promote inclusive education. These efforts include ensuring that children with disabilities are included in mainstream classes whenever possible, and changing the view that they should be placed in separate schools. In Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, we fund groups that provide legal advice to Roma parents who want to ensure that their children are not shunted into schools that offer a segregated and inferior education.

      Training Teachers

      We believe that early childhood learning should be given the same level of professional training and attention as other parts of a child’s education, and fund training and development schemes for early childhood teachers around the world. In Pakistan, we took a leading role in the creation of a national center of excellence for early childhood care and education—working closely with the Ministry of Education in Islamabad.

      • Students linger on the steps in front of a school building.
        Children attending the J.W. Pearson school linger on the steps before class begins. © Andrea Bruce/NOOR for the Open Society Foundations
      • A teacher helps some young students count.
        An early childhood master-trainer works with students at the J.W. Pearson Early Childhood Center in downtown Monrovia, Liberia. © Andrea Bruce/NOOR for the Open Society Foundations
      • A teacher reading a book to a group of school children
        An early childhood master-trainer reads a book to children at the Liberian Market Association Waterside Early Childhood Center in Monrovia, Liberia. © Andrea Bruce/NOOR for the Open Society Foundations
      • Children walking
        An early childhood master-trainer walks children from a study corner to a play area at the LMA Waterside Early Childhood Center. © Andrea Bruce/NOOR for the Open Society Foundations
      • A young girl looking at a book
        A young child thumbs through books at the Liberian Market Association Waterside Early Childhood Center in Monrovia, Liberia. © Andrea Bruce/NOOR for the Open Society Foundations
      • A family crossing a street together
        Two parents pick up their children from the Early Childhood Center in Monrovia, Liberia. © Andrea Bruce/NOOR for the Open Society Foundations
      • A woman speaking to schoolchildren
        A woman speaks with children at the Liberian Market Association Waterside school in Monrovia, Liberia. © Andrea Bruce/NOOR for the Open Society Foundations
      • People around a well
        A brother and sister join their uncle for a trip to a neighborhood water well in Monrovia, Liberia. © Andrea Bruce/NOOR for the Open Society Foundations
      • Young children on rocking horses
        Children from the Liberian Market Association Waterside Early Childhood Center ride plastic rocking horses during recess in Monrovia, Liberia. © Andrea Bruce/NOOR for the Open Society Foundations

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