In the brain of a newborn child, neurons rapidly begin connecting and while this continues forever, most of it is complete by age 2. This is the basis of early childhood development or ECD. It spans from the moment of conception until the beginning of primary school.
It encompasses four areas: physical well-being, health, and nourishment, cognitive development, memory, and IQ, linguistic development, a child’s vocabulary and ability to read and write. Socio-emotional development, a child’s perseverance and ability to work with others.
This is the ECD. We already know four things that work. In Argentina improving maternal health reduced low birth-weight by 23 percent.
In Guatemala better childhood nutrition improved adult test scores by nine percent.
20 years later, parental stimulation increased earnings by 25 percent in Jamaica, and it reduced crime by 30 percent.
And in Mozambique, a pre-school education improved cognitive development by 87 percent.
These ECD investments build strong bodies and minds. ECD also reduces inequality. In the United States, if all low-income children went to good preschools, disparities and readiness for primary school will drop 24 percent between white and black children, and 35 percent between white and Hispanic children.
ECD levels the playing field, and it makes economic sense too by cutting off problems early and preventing higher costs down the road.
Yet, sadly not enough ECD investments are being made. In developing countries, ten to twenty percent of pregnant women are malnourished. One in four kids suffer from stunted growth. That’s 165 million kids and throughout the world access to preschool education is dramatically dependent on wealth.