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Research Questions

  1. How did the approach of the French government to early childhood development (ECD) and the role of early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in supporting this, change during the period 2017-2021?
  2. How did these policy developments impact the functioning of ECEC services in practice?
  3. What are the key challenges that remain, regarding achieving a holistic approach to ECD in French society, including relevant gaps and barriers when it comes to research and evaluation?

Over the period 2017-2021 the attitude of the French public and policymakers towards early years education and care changed, resulting in early childhood development (ECD), particularly the affective and social components, increasingly being recognised as a priority, with early childhood education and care (ECEC) services enjoying more government support. Consequently, this period witnessed an increase in policies with a focus on expanding and improving the access and quality of childcare and preschool services, especially for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children.

This report provides an overview of the policy changes that occurred between 2017-2022. In addition, it analyses broader trends within French society and politics, illustrating a shifting attitude towards a more holistic understanding and practice around ECD. Finally, the report identifies key challenges that remain for policymakers in the future and determines relevant research gaps that could support the implementation of more evidence-based policies.

The aim of this study is to point out areas for improvement, when it comes to ECD and ECEC services, to support funders, decision makers and other actors in bringing about meaningful change in the future. This research was funded by Porticus France.

Key Findings

  • A range of formal childcare options are available in France, but provision and use are far from universal.
  • Despite government measures, disadvantaged families still face a number of barriers to formal childcare.
  • Three key government initiatives have been introduced in recent years, but funding remains limited.
  • There is growing emphasis on holistic early childhood development in the first three years, but preschool priorities remain on a different trajectory.
  • Fragmented governance creates significant challenges for transforming the system.
  • A positive shift appears to be underway in relation to research and evaluation, but important gaps and barriers remain.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was funded by Porticus France and conducted by RAND Europe.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.