Early childhood is a critical period in our social, cognitive, linguistic, emotional, and self-regulatory development, and extensive research has been conducted on children’s overall developmental processes, influencing factors, and their lifelong impacts. Research suggests the over-arching significance of supporting children’s early development through caregiver-child communication, social interactions, and play. Such interactions and opportunities for development in children’s early years are critical for later academic achievement and well-being. Moreover, the positive long-term effects of high-quality early childhood education (ECE), in particular on children’s development, as well as the economic, social, and cultural development of communities on a larger scale, have been extensively documented.
In the Arab Gulf region, especially in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), little research has been done to document and analyze ECE quality, practices, and their impacts. This case study focuses on the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE, investigating the scope of programs and their quality, challenges, and opportunities for growth and improvement. The study found and documented extreme variations in the quality of early childhood education centers (ECECs) in the emirate and highlights the need to improve ECE policies, practices, and facilities by adopting recognized international standards, best practices, and support structures. This paper goes on to present data-driven policy recommendations to improve the quality of ECECs in Ras Al Khaimah and the greater UAE.