Early Childhood Development: the Earlier the Better

October 12, 2010

Ankara, October 12th, 2010 The Conference on Early Childhood Development started today in Ankara in the presence of Turkish Minister of National Education Nimet Çubukcu and Turkish Minister of Health Recep Akdağ.

“[Early] education is the best insurance against poverty" could be the motto of two-day Early Childhood Development conference, which is organized jointly by the World Bank and UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of National Education, Ministry of Health, State Planning Organization and other agencies. International experts, academics, government agencies, civil society and practitioners of early childhood development are attending the conference.

 “Today we know how crucial the early years are for ensuring children’s well-being and preparing them for primary school, a safe journey through education, and healthy, productive lives beyond” said World Bank’s Human Development Sector Manager Jesko Hentschel. “And delays in early childhood interventions are difficult and costly to reverse later in life".

UNICEF’s Deputy Regional Director Kirsi Madi stressed the importance of early childhood programmes in addressing inequalities: “ECD is a powerful equalizer which helps to overcome socio economic disparities by insuring equality of opportunities for all children before they enter primary school. Investing in ECD programmes is more cost efficient then addressing later in life the issues of poor health status, drop out, delinquency. Therefore the main theme of this conference is not just a need to invest in early years but to ensure Equality of Opportunity for Every Child”.

Turkey has recorded major improvements in child development outcomes in recent times, including under-five mortality. And early childhood development (ECD) is becoming a top policy priority in Turkey. The Government of Turkey is setting ambitious targets on child development and introducing important new initiatives, such as the program to achieve universal enrollment in kindergarten and increase preschool enrollment to 50 percent by 2014-15.

In this framework, the two-day Conference will not only take stock of the status of ECD outcomes and policies in Turkey but will also explore ways for Turkey to expand and improve ECD, drawing from best practices and lessons from ECD policies around the world.