This is the introductory chapter to a comparative volume examining how successfully, and through what mechanisms, policies in eight different countries ensure access to high quality early education and care for disadvantaged children. The chapter begins by examining the research evidence on the impact of early education and care for children's outcomes, including a discussion of the importance of the quality of provision. It then explains the purpose and scope of the volume and sets out the rationale for choosing the eight countries and considers some broad similarities and differences between them, drawing on international data. Finally, it provides a brief overview of each of the country chapters, highlighting the key policy issues that arise in each one.
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