From Early Child Development to Human Development: Investing in Our Children's Future

From Early Child Development to Human Development: Investing in Our Children's Future

From Early Child Development to Human Development: Investing in Our Children's Future

From Early Child Development to Human Development: Investing in Our Children's Future

Synopsis

'It is never too early to become involved but it can easily be too late.'Armed with such alarming statistics as 125 million primary-school age children are not in school; another 150 million children drop out of primary school before they complete four years of education; and almost one-half of the children in the least developed countries of the world do not have access to primary education; the World Bank convened a global conference in April 2000, to address the benefits and challenges of investing in early childhood development. Scientific studies now show how critical the first few years of a child's life are in terms of later physical and mental health, behavior, and capacity to learn. The Millennium Development Goals endorsed by 189 member countries of the United Nations and the World Bank are targets for reducing global poverty. The goals specifically address the need for universal primary education as a means for breaking the cycle of poverty in individual families and in countries. With the publication of this volume, which contains the conference proceedings, the World Bank hopes to encourage a broader investment by countries, companies, organizations and private sector institutions in early child development.

Excerpt

A child's early years are critically important, for they provide the foundation for the rest of life, as an adolescent and as an adult. Children who are well nurtured can live well and create better societies for all. Yes, children are our future and by investing in them at their earliest ages we invest in everyone's human and economic development.

In April 2000, the World Bank hosted a global conference which addressed the benefits and challenges of investing in early child development (ECD). This landmark conference brought together the world's leading experts, academicians, practitioners, and policymakers to focus on various aspects of ECD. They represented nongovernmental organizations and other private-sector groups, government agencies, and multilateral and bilateral organizations. This volume contains the proceedings of the conference. With its publication, the World Bank hopes to encourage countries to adopt policies that target early child development, especially for children and families living in poverty, and to spark other groups and organizations to invest in ECD programs.

The reasons for focusing on children are more than traditional and still pertinent humanitarian concerns for those least able to look after themselves. New insights from neuroscience and the behavioral and social sciences underscore the importance of giving children a better chance in life. Nurturing them in their early years is vital for attacking the worst effects of poverty and may be an effective way to break the relentless, vicious cycle of poverty that, too often, crosses generations. Children who live in poverty cannot go to school, do not learn to read, will have difficulty finding a job, and will have little hope for their, and their children's, future. Poverty diminishes people's spiritual resources, peace of mind, dignity, and freedom to live fully. And, unfortunately, poverty is like a bad gene—it is inherited.

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