Three types of quality in ECEC

Researchers and policy makers generally distinguish three types of quality. 

Process quality concerns the more proximal processes of children’s everyday experiences and involves the social, emotional physical, and instructional aspects of staff-child and peer interactions while being involved in play, activities or routines (Slot, 2018). 

Structural quality entails the distal and regulable factors, such as child-staff ratios, group size and staff training/education. Structural quality is partly determined by legislation, policy and funding and are a major factor in the macroeconomic costs of ECEC (Slot, 2018). 

Curriculum quality refers to the planning of children’s experiences and opportunities for developing skills, acquiring knowledge and experiencing competence via the activities provided to them in line with, and as concrete instantiations or implementations of, the national curriculum guidelines. The desired competences and skills to be developed can be referred to as the goals of the curriculum (Moser et al., 2017). 


High quality ECEC grows as a tree

Different components are relevant to increase and maintain quality.  

  • Policy is at the roots. We refer to the five domains for policy actions, as formulated by the Proposal for key principles of a Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care. 
  • High quality settings and services form the tree’s lower stem. They support the upper stem, just before the crown, consisting of high quality groups/classrooms with high quality staff. 
  • Four main branches hold the crown, which represent structural quality, process quality, curriculum quality, and wellbeing, factors that directly affect the children. 
  • Diverse children are in the crown.  
  • A tree is a complex living system. All components of the tree influence each other. 

Measures should be taken at (1) the level of policy and legislation, (2) the level of the setting and the service, (3) the group and (4) the individual child. We recommend the European Framework of Quality and Wellbeing Indicators  as a research-based instrument to inspire quality actions.