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VideoApril 3, 2024

Global Lessons for improving Early Childhood Education in Latin America and the Caribbean

Early childhood education is not just a school issue. Investing today in the education of the youngest members of the household can ensure the human capital needed for more equitable societies. We talked about this with Norbert Schady, Chief Economist for Human Development at the World Bank, who brings lessons from other regions.

Why is it important to invest in early childhood education?

The early years of a child's life are when the basic architecture of the brain is literally formed. And the absence of important investments at that time, of important nurturing, attachment or nurturing stimuli, has negative consequences for the rest of life.

So, investing in early childhood really lays the foundation, the foundation for all the investments that occur later. Following children from two, three years of age to forty years of age, it is clear that children who have low levels of development in early childhood suffer in different dimensions.

In adulthood they have lower incomes, lower job probability, higher crime rates, fewer years of schooling completed, and so on. So it really is a critical investment that we can make in the early years.

What lessons could we bring from other countries for the Latin American and Caribbean region?

I would like to highlight two in particular. The first is that families are absolutely critical and, consequently, it is very important to look at the parenting practices that parents have in their homes.

In many countries there has been a lot of expansion of coverage of different services, kindergartens, preschools, and less attention has been paid to the quality of these services, but quality is absolutely fundamental. Expanding without quality makes no sense, it may even be harmful to children, that is the second lesson.

What is the future of early childhood education?

Let's say in the short term future and in the long term future. In the short-term future I think we have to see how we can recover what was lost during the pandemic because it is still there. In the more immediate term, we have to recover the losses from the pandemic and in the slightly more medium term, although we can't wait, but in the more medium term is how do we make sure that the services that we provide are truly those that benefit children.