Why invest in early childhood development


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  • Welcome opportunity to share with others not directly involved in field of ECDTendency to “preach to the converted” and network within the professionNow we need to engage wider community as we are convinced that it pays to invest heavily in the early years as the payback benefits not some of us but all of us ultimately
  • This presentation focuses on:ECD is the solid foundation on which prosperous nations and societies are builtNeuroscience research shows clearly the tremendous importance of paying attention to the early years as that is the period which determines the architecture of the brain’s development for better or worse Effects of early intervention programmes on children’s development – the evidenceThe economic returns on investing in early childhood development
  • Today’s children will become tomorrow’s citizens, workers, and parents. Building quality human capital is essentialWell developed children become the foundation of a prosperous and sustainable societyTwo developments in the last decade have influenced the growing interest in the early childhood years . Firstly, the explosion of research in neurobiology that establishes the extent to which the interaction between genetics and early experience literally shapes brain architecture, andsecondly, the fact that we live in a knowledge age which increasingly recognizes the need for a highly skilled workforce and healthy adult population to cope with this knowledge driven competitive worldThese combined support the thrust in ECD advocacy
  • As an example of the brain development that occurs early in life, look at the density of synapses at birth. As children learn and grow, the synapses multiply, connecting new parts of the brain. By 6, this neural structure is quite dense. It then goes through a pruning process as the pathways that are used less frequently die off, making the brain more efficient and organized. Synapse-formation is experience dependent, meaning that they are formed in response to experience. Some functions of the brain expect experiences such as light, sound, and motion, while others are more sensitive to individual variations in experience.
  • Through this process, early experiences create a foundation for lifelong learning, behavior, and both physical and mentalhealth. A strong foundation in the early years increases the probability of positive outcomes and a weak foundation increases the odds of later difficulties.The development of increasingly complex skills and their underlying circuits builds on the circuits that were formed earlier, so higher level circuits build on lower level circuits and adaptation at higher levels is more difficult if lower level circuits were not wired properly. E.g. Ability to understand and then say the names of objects depends upon earlier development of the capacity to differentiate and reproduce the sounds in one’s native language
  • For example, by the first year, the parts of the brain that differentiate sound are becoming specialized to the language the baby has been exposed to; at the same time, the brain is already starting to lose the ability to recognize different sounds found in other languages.Young children have better facility in learning multiple languages than adults canAlthough the “windows” for language learning and other skills remain open, these brain circuits become increasingly difficult to alter over time. Early plasticity means it’s easier and more effective to influence a baby’s developing brain architecture than to rewire parts of its circuitry in the adult years.
  • . The brain is a highly interrelated organ, and its multiple functions operate in a richly coordinated fashion. Each aspect of development interact , influence and affect each other; e.g. Physically and emotionally deprived children are not likely to achieve well in the cognitive domain(Dr. Bovell to address the critical importance of social-emotional development in the early years)
  • While positive stress (moderate, short-lived physiological responses to uncomfortable experiences) is an important and necessary aspect of healthy development, toxic stress is the strong, unrelieved activation of the body’s stress management system. Continuous stimulation of the stress response system also can affect the immune system and other metabolic regulatory mechanisms, leading to a permanently lower threshold for their activation throughout life.As a result, children who experience toxic stress in early childhood may develop a lifetime of greater susceptibility to stress-related physical illnesses (such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes) as well as mental health problems (such as depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse). They also are more likely to exhibit health-damaging behaviors and adult lifestyles that undermine well-being.
  • Images from Harvard University’s Centre on the Developing Child shows difference between normally developing brain and brain affected by toxic stress
  • Other image of healthily developing brain
  • Other image of abnormally developing brain
  • Babies’ brains require stable, caring, interactive relationships with adults — any way or any place they can be provided will benefit healthy brain developmentFor children experiencing toxic stress, specialized early interventions are needed to target the cause of the stress and protect the child from its consequences.
  • The Abecedarian Project (NCarolina, USA in 1970s) was a carefully controlled scientific study of the potential benefits of early childhood education for children from low-income families who were at risk of developmental delays or academic failure. Participants attended a full-time child care facility that operated year-round, from infancy until they entered kindergarten. Throughout their early years, the children were provided with educational activities designed to support their language, cognitive, social and emotional development. Follow-up studies have consistently shown that children who received early educational intervention did better academically, culminating in their having greater chance of adult educational attainment (30 years follow up of 98% cohort of 111 poor children)The High/Scope Perry Preschool StudyThe High/Scope Perry Preschool Study (Schweinhart, Montie, Xiang et al., 2005) examines the model’s effects through adulthood for children living in poverty. The study is based on random assignment of 123 children to a program or no-program group, and has found lasting effects on school achievement and literacy, high school graduation, adult earnings, home ownership, and lifetime arrest rates. Data from the age 40 follow-up have been released. The program group significantly outperformed the no-program group on the highest level of schooling completedThe Effective preschool and primary education project (EPPE-UK)This five-year longitudinal study followed the progress of 3000 children aged three plus in141 preschools throughout England. Twelve of the schools considered to be effective based on child development outcomes were selected for more in-depth follow up and qualitative analysis. The findings concurred with those of other studies that quality preschool education has significant positive impact on children’s overall development.
  • St Kitts & Nevis topped the scores from a quality survey conducted on ECD learning environments in 10 Caribbean countries between 2000 and 2008The significance of this is that the centres in which government invested and supported to provide some measure of quality are those that scored highly on the quality surveyThis is not generally the case throughout the Caribbean region
  • Why invest in early childhood development

    1. 1. Rose Davies, PhDPresented at Staff Seminar School of Education, UWI December 6, 2012
    2. 2. The Presentation ECD – The foundation of nations The Science of ECD – brain development The effectiveness of early intervention The economics of ECD Implications for policy
    3. 3. ECD, the foundation of nations... The future of any society depends on its ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation, the foundation of a prosperous and sustainable society When we invest wisely in children and families, the next generation will pay that back through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship. When we fail to provide children with what they need to build a strong foundation for healthy and productive lives, we put our future prosperity and security at risk
    4. 4. The Scientific evidence: First Five Years- period of most rapid brain development 1. At birth brain connections are relatively few – 50 trillion - these are determined by genes from parents 2. In first few months, connections increase by 20 times to over 1,000 trillion - these are determined by a baby’s experience 3. Experiences determine which pathways are formed and repeated experiences make these stronger and stronger - pathways that are not used fade away 4. Experiences of love and affection wire channels for these emotions, BUT experiences of anger and aggression also wire channels for these emotions 4
    5. 5. The Developing Brain...Source of Graphic:Harry T. Chugani; Children’s Hospital of Michigan
    6. 6. The Sensitive Periods... Like the construction of a home, the building process begins with laying the foundation, framing the rooms, and wiring the electrical system in a predictable sequence. Brain architecture is built over a succession of “sensitive periods,” each of which is associated with the formation of specific circuits that are associated with specific abilities. The development of increasingly complex skills and their underlying circuits builds on the circuits and skills that were formed earlier.
    7. 7. Cognition builds on neural pathwaysstarted before birth, long before schooling Sensing Language Pathways Higher (vision, hearing) Cognitive Function -6 -3 0 3 6 9 1 4 8 12 16 Months Years AGE See From Neurons to Neighborhoods, 2000.
    8. 8. Brain adaptability changes with age... The brain’s capacity for change decreases with age. The brain is most flexible, or “plastic,” early in life to accommodate a wide range of environments and interactions But as the brain matures and becomes more specialized to deal with more complex functions it gradually loses its plasticity and becomes less capable of adapting to new or unexpected challenges
    9. 9. •The brain is integrative...• The cognitive, emotional and social capacities of theindividual are inextricably intertwined throughout the lifecourse•Emotional well-being and social competence provide astrong foundation for emerging cognitive abilities.• The emotional and physical health, social skills, andcognitive-linguistic capacities that emerge in the earlyyears are all important prerequisites for success in schooland later in the workplace and community.
    10. 10. Effects of toxic stress on the brain Toxic stress damages developing brain architecture, which can lead to life-long problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health. Scientists now know that chronic, unrelenting stress in early childhood, caused by extreme poverty, repeated abuse, or severe maternal depression, for example, can be toxic to the developing brain. In the absence of the buffering protection of adult support, toxic stress becomes built into the body by processes that shape the architecture of the developing brain.
    11. 11. The case for early Intervention... Early preventive intervention will be more efficient and produce more favourable outcomes than remediation later in life A balanced approach to emotional, social, cognitive, and language development will best prepare all children for success in school and later in the workplace and community. Supportive relationships and positive learning experiences begin at home but can also be provided through a range of services with proven effectiveness factors.. in situations where toxic stress is likely, intervening as early as possible is critical to achieving the best outcomes.
    12. 12. Effectiveness of ECED Intervention Programmes: The EvidenceMajor International longitudinal studies: UK - EPPE (Effective Pre-primary and Primary Education) USA - High Scope Perry Pre school Project, (Michigan) USA - ABECEDARIAN Project (North Carolina)... have established that - Preschool experience - compared to none - enhances children’s development. Promotes schooling, reduces crime, promotes productivity in the workplace, reduces teenage pregnancy. The earlier it begins the greater the impact on intellectual development, sociability, concentration and independence.However, the quality of the programme,
    13. 13. Research in the Caribbean: What makes thedifference for children’s outcomes?The Profiles Project: Longitudinal research in Jamaica on a national sample of 6 year olds entering primary school in 1999 found that most children attended early childhood facilities at an early age, from 3 years old, and that facilities lacked material, space, furniture and programme structure. 69% of the sample followed up and assessed in 2003. Children from lower socio economic status performed significantly less well than their peers with higher socio economic status – and the gap was widening. Those in attendance at higher fee paying schools had improved academic and behaviour outcomes. SOURCE: Report of the Profiles Project by Maureen Samms-Vaughan, Planning Institute of Jamaica 2004 16
    14. 14. Pedagogy, Leadership, Structured support…the caseof St Kitts Nevis  In 1981, the Government collaborated with the High/Scope Foundation to train early childhood care-givers and teachers in the “Plan, Do, Review” pedagogy.  Strong leadership by successive heads of early childhood education combined with Government support through policy, salaries, professional development, regulation, equipment and materials for centres  In 2007, a survey of the quality of the learning environments found good quality in government centres but two thirds of private centres achieving only a minimal standard, reflecting challenges with overcrowding and insufficient learning activities 17
    15. 15. The economic evidence … preschool gives the best rate of return to human 8 development 6 Return Pre-school Programmes Per $Invested School 4 R 2 Job Training Pre- school School Post-school 0 6 Age 18 18 Source: P. Carneiro & J. Heckman, Human Capital Policy, NBER, 2003.
    16. 16. Some Implications... It is important to create the right conditions for early childhood development as it is likely to be more effective and less costly than addressing problems at a later stage For society, this means that remedial education, clinical treatment and other professional interventions are more costly than the provision of nurturing (serve & return relationships), protective relationships and appropriate learning experiences earlier in life. Simply put, getting it right the first time is more efficient and ultimately more effective than trying to fix them later
    17. 17. Concluding thought.... It is better to “bite the bullet” of putting the resources, financing etc where it really counts, i.e. In the early years, if countries hope to achieve the goal of national prosperity, and in the case of our country... “make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business” (Vision 2030 –PIOJ) Questions??, Comments?? Thank You.