Early Childhood Development 


Function shift of Early Childhood Development (ECD) from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education.


1          Background


The National Integrated ECD Policy of 2015, recognizes that “overwhelming scientific evidence attests to the tremendous importance of the early years for human development and the need for investing resources to support and promote optimal early childhood development from conception”.


1.1.      The inclusion of Early Childhood Development (ECD) in the State of the Nation Address, both in 2018 and 2019 as well as the additional funding made available in recent years signals that Government recognizes the important role ECD plays/takes as a development and poverty reduction imperative.


1.2.      During the State of the Nation address of February 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Government would be migrating the responsibility of Early Childhood Development (ECD) from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the Department of Basic Education (DBE).


1.3.      The main purpose of the shift is to expand access and improve the quality of ECD programmes.


2           Practical legal implications on Early Childhood Development Function Shift


2.1.      Chapter 5 of the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act No. 38 of 2005) and all amendments thereto, in respect of only partial care facilities that provide early childhood development services as defined in section 91(2) and early childhood development programmes as defined in section 91(3) of the Children’s Act;


2.2.      Chapter 6 of the Children’s Act, and all amendments thereto; and


2.3.      Sections 306, 307 and 308 of the Children’s Act, and all amendments thereto, in respect of early childhood development services and early childhood development programmes.


2.4.      In terms of the National Integrated ECD Policy, the Department of Social Development has the responsibility of ensuring universal availability and adequate quality of, and equitable access to inclusive learning opportunities; and also the development, delivery, regulation, registration, quality monitoring, improvement and evaluation of ECD programmes.


2.5.      The Department of Education has the responsibility of ensuring the development of early learning curriculum, continuity and synergy between early learning and Grade R as well as the integration of key health messages in the school curriculum.


2.6.      The overall function of leadership and coordination of the National Integrated ECD Policy implementation will shift from the DSD to DBE at national and provincial levels. 




2.7.1.     ECD centres will be registered by the Department of Education.


2.7.2.     Registration and alignment of programmes to the National Curriculum Framework is done by the department of Education and should also ensure that they are SACE endorsed.


2.7.3.     In the nutshell, ECD Centres and programmes for children from birth to 4 years will be coordinated, monitored, led, quality assured and regulated by DBE with support from DSD, DoH, COGHSTA and other relevant departments.


2.7.4.     The comprehensive 1st 1000 days programme will be led by the DoH with support from DSD and DBE.


3           Processes that were followed in preparation of the fuction shift


3.1.      There has been constant consultation and interaction between the two departments affected by shifting of ECD function namely Department of Social Development and the Department of Education as well as relevant stakeholders.


3.2.      To ensure that the planning is evidence-based, an ECD Census and Baseline Assessment will be conducted to ensure that we understand the size and context of the sector.


3.3.      The year 2021 was for planning, preparation and development of systems that are required for delivering the ECD function by the two departments.


3.4.      During this year, the different branches are determining their readiness to deliver the function.


3.5.      An implementation plan was developed and monitored by all branches in both departments to ensure that the new functions that the DBE will become responsible for are moved across without compromising service delivery.


4           What the ECD function shift is not


4.1.      It does not mean that all Grade R and younger children will be going to schools. The hybrid model of using schools and ECD centres as sites for Grade R will continue.


4.2.      It does not mean that the DBE will employ ECD practitioners. ECD provision is largely through the non-governmental and private sectors, who will remain the employers notwithstanding the shift from the DSD to DBE.


4.3.      It does not mean that suddenly the funding for ECD programmes (birth to 4 years) will increase overnight. The current funding model will continue in line with the available budgets. However, work is being initiated in line with the NDP and National Integrated ECD Policy to review funding norms and standards.


4.4.      It does not mean that ECD practitioners will become educators. In accordance with the provisions of current legislation, the requirements of SACE and other policies ECD educators need to meet the minimum professional and academic requirements to move from a practitioner to an educator. However, work will continue under the lead of the DBE to facilitate the Professionalization of the sector and supporting the DHET’s (Policy on Programmes Leading to Qualifications in Higher Education for Educators and Practitioners in Early Childhood Education and Care.


4.5.      It does not mean that infrastructure will change or expanded immediately. Addressing the issues of infra-structure in ECD provision will be addressed as part of a longer term plan and in line with the accepted standards and the provisions of current policies.


4.6.      It does not mean that the current service provision in ECD and, where applicable funding, will be abruptly stopped. The departments involved is developing a detailed plan for the government that will ensure that shift of functions happens smoothly with the minimum, if any disruption in service delivery. An Inter-Departmental Project Steering Committee chaired by relevant DDGs from DSD and DBE has been established. Its main responsibility is to provide strategic guidance for the function transfer process.


Function shift of Early Childhood Development (ECD) from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education


ECD Programme


ECD Districts Contact Details


ECD: What a Grade R Learners Should Know

ECD: Pre Grade R Purpose


ECD Roll out Plan 2015

ECD Roll out Plan 2016

ECD Roll out Plan 2017

ECD Roll out Plan 2018


Model Grade R Classes

Grade R 2014 Final Allocations Per School 001

Grade R 2014 Final Allocations Per School 002 

ECD Roll out Plan 2014

ECD Roll out Plan