Directorate of Early Childhood Education

Introduction of early childhood formal education

It is not so clear who exactly brought formal early childhood education to Zambia. However, ECE is more associated with the coming of missionaries and the whites such as the British-South African company. Formal ECE was provided in public schools and local Authority Welfare Centres as Sub–Standards A and B (Sub A and Sub B). The welfare centres mainly focused on improving the nutritional status of children who were given milk and an egg at the centre. It was during the colonial era, that the Day Nursery ACT was established. The Day Nurseries Act of 1957 was the first sign of policy direction for ECE establishment.


To provide an operational framework that is multi-sectoral in addressing education, health, nutrition and child protection of children aged 3 to 6.


Ensure an effective and efficient ECE system that provides quality education and care in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment that is responsive to the needs of every child and where each child can develop into the full potential and productive citizen.

The Mandate of the ECE Directorate

To Coordinating the:

    •   Formulation and review of policies to ensure quality and relevance in the provision of ECE programmes with key players such as line ministries, non – governmental organisations, families and    individuals.
    • Preparation of ECE instructional materials to ensure quality teaching and learning
    • Mobilisation of financial and material resources to facilitate the implementation of ECE programmes.  
    • Collaborating with various stakeholders in the ECE sector sub-sector to enhance the implementation of ECE programmes through consultation
    • Overseeing the registration of ECE centres to ensure adherence to set standards2
    • Ensuring the undertaking of research to provide evidence-based information
    • Managing staff and other resources to facilitate the attainments of department’s objectives
    • Monitor and evaluate the ECE services administered by all stakeholders such as Public, Private, Community Based organisations (CBOs), and Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs) to ascertain and guarantee the best practices and quality.

History of Early Childhood Education in Zambia

Early Childhood Education (ECE) is not new in Zambia.  It started in the pre-independence period. During the pre-Independence era, ECE was informal and followed the African traditional education which was closely tied to culture and traditional way of living.

Education was holistic and collectivist as it involves all community members and extended family members such as grandparents, aunties, cousins and older siblings in the provision of education. Children learned different skills. values and attitude through traditional oral learning, storytelling, and apprenticeship. This type of education was passed on from one generation to the other.  The traditional education practices helped children develop early social, cognitive and language skills.


ECE provision after independence from 1964 to 1991

After independence, ECE has been carried out in urban areas mostly through the initiative of individuals, parents and private organisations.

From the time Zambia got its independence. ECE provision was mostly in the hands of individuals, and missionaries’ faith missionaries based on faith-based organizations. To consolidate the provision of ECD, in 1972 the Lusaka Parents Pre-school Association was formed to coordinate pre-school activities within the Lusaka region and later it was renamed the Zambia Pre-school Association (ZPA). The Zambia Pre-school Association was created as an umbrella organisation to take charge of nursery and pre-school matters in the country.

The same year ((1972) the Catholic Women’s League established Lutanda in Ndola and Rugambwa in Lusaka as Pre-School Teacher Training Centres.

 In 1983, the Government through the Ministry began providing training for ECE teachers at the then National In-service Teachers’ College (NISTCOL) now Chalimbana University in Chongwe district.

In 1985 and 1986 training was extended to then Kitwe and David Livingstone Teachers Training Colleges respectively.

ECE Provision under the ministry of local government and housing from 1991 to 2004

 The reintroduction of multi-parties brought the liberalisation and liberalisation of goods and services which included schools.  This resulted in the fragmentation of early childhood colleges of education and teachers.

In 1998 another association called Early Childhood Teachers and Trainers Association of Zambia (ETTAZ) was formed to further promote ECE activities. For a long time, ECE was operated at the discretion of local authorities, communities, NGOs, private individuals and families. 

In 2004, however, the mandate of ECE was transferred from the Ministry of Local Government to the Ministry of Education (MoE) through a Policy shift. This policy shift was operationalised in the National Implementation Framework (NIF III) through Government Gazette No. 547 of 2004. Since then, MoE embarked on several strategies and activities to strengthen ECE programming in the education sector and the country at large through coordination and collaboration with line ministries and other stakeholders.


Of several efforts which focused on mainstreaming ECE in the education sector were put in place such as providing Policy Frameworks and Guiding Principles:

  1. ECE Policy and Policy Implementation Plan (PIP)
  2. Curriculum and Implementation Guidelines
  • ECE Standard Guidelines and Assessment
  1. Advocacy, Sensitisation and Community Mobilisation
  2. Monitoring and Evaluation

Early Childhood Education is of great importance to the Ministry of Education (MoE). As the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states, “ECE must encompass all actions that contribute to the survival, growth, development and learning of children. This includes health, nutrition and hygiene, as well as cognitive, social, emotional and physical development from birth to the starting point of primary education.

The ECE Directorate aims at creating a supportive operational environment that ensures that key aspects of the delivery of ECE are achieved. Through the implementation and execution of the annual Work plan, the overall focus and target are on improving the provision of quality education and management support systems to enhance the quality of ECE.

              Our  Focus


Provide quality ECE services.

  1. Move from 14.7% in 2015 when the Directorate was established to the current 29.8%.
  • Increase access to ECE from the current 29.8% to 50% by 2022.

Policy Objectives of the Directorate

  • To lead and support an operational environment that ensures sustainable development, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of the ECE subsector.
  • To work more efficiently to optimise ECE delivery and increase access to ECE across the country
  • To increase the number of qualified teachers and personnel through training and capacity building
  • To improve learner performance
  • To improve the quality of ECE service provision through curriculum implementation and quality assurance
  • To establish an evidence-based based evidence-based performance management system that demonstrates the contribution of ECE to learner development
  • To increase the number of children receiving ECE services
  • To establish a supportive institutional, operational and regulatory environment for the expansion of equitable access to quality and effective ECE programmes
  • To improve equity by gender, household income and geographic location and increase education inclusion of Learners with Special Needs and Disabilities (LSEND).
  • To lead and support an operational environment that ensures sustainable development, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of the ECE subsector
  • To ensure that the rights of children to education under the age of 7 years are fulfilled
  • To mobilise and coordinate national and local government, communities, faith-based and civil society organizations, the private sector and Cooperating Partners to increase equitable access to quality and effective ECE programmes using a range of formal and non-formal modalities.
  • To increase education access by using alternative ECE delivery modes such as Annexed, Community, Interactive Radio Initiative (IRI), Interactive Audio Initiative (IAI), Mobile, Insaka, Hub and Satellite models.

ECE Provision under the ministry of education from 2004 to 2010

This is notable in the Fifth National Development Plan 2006-2010, a policy guideline which outlines educational provision by the MoE from ECE. This policy guideline defined Early Childhood Care Development and Education (ECCDE) as the level of both formal and –formal formal-formal education where a child from birth to age six undergoes stimulation and early learning before reaching the age of seven years which is a compulsory entry point to primary education. ECCDE embody both Early Childhood Education as well as Early Childhood Development (ECD). Further, the Revised Sixth National Development Plan and the Seventh National Development Plan sought to increase access to quality ECE services with a set target of 35% by 2020 as well as 50% by 2021 from 14.7% in 2015 when the Directorate was established to the current 29.8%.

In 2011 ECE became part of the National Policy supported by legislation through the Education ACT of 2011. Coverage of ECE in Zambia by 2014 was 15% of children in grade 1 with school preschool or nursery school experience and mostly limited to urban areas.

This is evidenced by Cabinet memos No.CO.101/19/21 of August 2014 and that of September 2014, MFB/53/1/1. It was therefore recommended that a new Department of Early Childhood Education be created in the Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education. The department was to be responsible for the development and implementation of ECE policies, programmes, and activities and perform specific functions in the Country. The policy aims to engage parents, communities, NGOs and other stakeholders in support of ECE and help the government to achieve its goals. The mandate has enabled MoE to accelerate ECE service delivery throughout the country including the rural and hard to reach areas as well as through functional areas such as access, quality, equity and efficiency.

Following the declaration of Universal Primary Education with efforts to adhere to Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the Zambian government was prompted to take an active role in the provision of ECE. In July 2015 the Directorate of Early Childhood Education (DECE) was established as a sub-sector in the MoE. The Ministry was granted Treasury Authority (TA) NO. Six (6) in 2015 which gave effect to the creation of 12 positions for the establishment of the Directorate of Early Childhood Education. The role of the newly established Directorate is to coordinate and address the needs of the early childhood education sub-sector in the country.

The Ministry has taken important steps to establish and accelerate the delivery of ECE services countrywide including the development of the National ECE Curriculum, annexing over 4,072 Centres in existing primary schools and deploying 1,933 qualified ECE teachers.

The MoE stated in its Strategic Plan of 2003 – 2007 that Early Childhood Education was an integral part of basic education, as such programming for increased access to ECE, especially in the rural and hard to reach areas became a strategic focus. 

Currently, educational provision is guided by the National Education Policy document, Educating Our Future, which focuses on equitable access to quality education at all levels of the education subsector. MoE has undertaken various activities to improve the delivery of quality ECE in the nation and has also been working with various partners and line Ministries who have supplemented and complimented MoE’s efforts to increase access and provide quality education in the subsector. MoE acknowledges the importance of ECE in preparation for formal and non-formal learning. 


Translate »