WASHINGTON DC, December 9, 2016 – The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a $50 million loan today to help improve the access and quality of early childhood education in Yunnan province in southwest China. Since China largely achieved nine-year universal basic education and eradicated adult illiteracy in 2010, early childhood education has become an important national policy priority. The country’s kindergarten enrollment rose from 38 percent in 2002 to 75 percent in 2015. However, the enrollment and quality of early childhood education programs vary greatly, especially between eastern and western provinces, and between urban and rural areas. The country has set its targets to achieve by 2020 kindergarten enrollment of 95 percent among five-year-olds, 80 percent among four-year-olds and 70 percent among three-year-olds. “Early childhood education is one of the most powerful instruments to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Children participating in high-quality early childhood education programs tend to have higher education attainment and are more successful later in life. Social and economic research shows that early intervention is particularly important for children from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Xiaoyan Liang, World Bank’s Lead Education Specialist and Team Leader for the project. The Yunnan Early Childhood Education Innovation Project is the first early childhood education project supported by the World Bank in China. Designed in consultation with the Yunnan provincial government and stakeholders, it built on an in-depth 2014 World Bank study, which surveyed rural households and kindergartens to identify key challenges and promising interventions in early childhood education in both the supply and demand sides. The project will be implemented in seven poor counties and three universities in Yunnan to help Yunnan achieve the 2020 targets. Project activities include building and improving capital facilities for kindergartens, rural community-based early childhood and parenting education centers, and an early childhood special education center, which will provide training for teachers, managers and staff. It will also help project universities improve teacher education and research programs. In addition, it aims to create a more favorable policy and social environment for early childhood education through policy research, the formulation and piloting of quality standards, and the promotion of scientific childrearing practices among parents. The project will have a total investment of $74.62 million, with a $50 million loan from the World Bank and $24.62 million from the provincial and county governments and project universities. It is expected to directly benefit about 5,540 children ages newborn to six years old every year. Those children will be able to enroll in the newly constructed kindergartens, rural community early childhood education centers, and the early childhood special education center. Indirectly, about 45,000 three- to six-year-olds in the seven project counties enrolled in various early childhood education settings will benefit from better quality and care, as their teachers, caregivers, and principals will be provided with training and support. The teacher education programs will benefit about 60 faculty members and 1,700 teacher trainees in the three project universities. In a broader sense, the project aims to advocate for early childhood education, improve the capacity and quality of teacher education, and develop sustainable models and policies beneficial to all children in Yunnan Province.