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Towards realisation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Investing in ECD key to
meeting Goal Four of the SDGs
Early child...
spending. While the exact percentages are not calculated, it is estimated that on
average 0.5% of this are directed toward...
action to leaders to think beyond child survival to supporting children to develop to
their full potential. The new data o...
Justine Kamuchocho Ngulube is
Senior Program Officer
For Early Childhood Development and Education under the Economic and ...
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Investing in ECD

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Investing in ECD

  1. 1. Towards realisation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Investing in ECD key to meeting Goal Four of the SDGs Early childhood development and education is currently receiving unprecedented attention from some of the most influential international governing bodies. The United Nations (UN) has recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals for the world to achieve by 2030, with targets in areas of critical social importance. The UN describes the sustainable development agenda as “a plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity. It is believed that worldwide, over 200 million children under five years old are failing to reach their development potential. Most of these children live in sub- Saharan Africa and south Asia. Poverty, poor health and nutrition, and lack of quality care all contribute to this loss of potential, solidifying inequities from the beginning of a child’s life. Early childhood development (ECD) is an often-neglected area of both donor and developing country investment, resulting in hundreds of millions of children each year failing to reach their full potential and perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Investments in the foundational elements of ECD, in particular early learning, nutrition, and responsive parenting are achievable and have high rates of return. Investing in children early can have a transformational impact on the lives of individual children, their families, their communities, and their society’s writ large. In addition, investment and Early Childhood Development (ECD) are both about the future. Investment is about transferring today’s purchasing power to the future, with an expectation for positive returns. ECD is about the foundation for individual and societal progress that has an economic and social payback for all. Both need vision and forward thinking. However, that is where the similarities might end, because globally, investment in ECD is extremely limited. There is compelling and credible evidence that the early years of a child’s life are the foundation for individuals, families, communities and for building sustainable societies. Rigorous economic analyses have modelled both the returns on investment and cost of inaction when it comes to early intervention programmes. Government or public funding for ECD typically comes from two sectors – health and education. In Southern Africa it is estimated that less than 5% of GDP is allocated to education and on average 2% to health. Programmes for young children and families receive only a very marginal proportion of health and education
  2. 2. spending. While the exact percentages are not calculated, it is estimated that on average 0.5% of this are directed towards children. The other source of investment in ECD is private sector funding. This source is not homogenous and consists of money and contributions from individuals, households, community members, business and philanthropy. Typically the family and household contribution to ECD is in the form of user fees. More than ever before, the global community is recognizing the critical importance of early childhood development and the benefit it provides for all children, especially the poorest. It is essential that action begins now to turn this attention into results. The Education for All Goals adopted by the international community in 2000 recognized the need to expand access to early childhood care and education. Without associated metrics, however, it was difficult to measure and ECD was often dropped from the education agenda. ECD was also largely left out of the Millennium Development Goals. The post-2015 frameworks are working to correct this omission. At the World Education Forum in Incheon, Korea, in May 2015, leaders came together to agree to “at least one year of free and compulsory quality pre-primary education and that all children have access to quality early childhood development, care and education.” This marked the first global consensus supporting at least one year of compulsory, free pre-primary education as well as the need for all children to have access to ECD services. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set even clearer targets for ECD. This includes early learning: “by 2030 ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education” as well as nutrition: “by 2030 end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving by 2025 the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under five years of age." These commitments lay the groundwork for action, but their implementation is not guaranteed without sufficient political will. Following the adoption of the SDGs, The Lancet is expected to release a series in spring 2016 with new data on scaling up ECD services and the cost of inaction. This presents an important moment to galvanize attention and support for the issue. The piece is expected to present a clear call to
  3. 3. action to leaders to think beyond child survival to supporting children to develop to their full potential. The new data on scale will also fill an evidence gap as the world looks to drastically expand access to ECD services, especially for the poorest. In 2016, additional data is expected from Saving Brains on brain development and unleashing children’s potential. Together, the adoption of the SDGs with ground- breaking new language on ECD and the release of significant new data provide an urgent call to action and an increased evidence base supporting early childhood development programs for all children. But if these calls are to be answered, leaders must step up to raise the priority of this issue on the global agenda and drive investment. References Supplementing Nutrition in the Early Years: The Role of Early Childhood Stimulation to Maximize Nutritional Inputs.” The World Bank, March 2009. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international- agenda/education-for-all/efagoals/ Incheon Declaration: Education 2030: Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all. https://en.unesco.org/world-education-forum-2015/incheon- declaration REF ECD Strategy – Internal Page 18 of 18 Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, finalised text for adoption (1 August 2015). https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/7891TRANSFORMIN G%20OUR%20WORLD.pdf USAID Child Survival Call to Action, http://5thbday.usaid.gov/pages/responsesub/event.aspx The World Bank Group Early Childhood Development Overview. http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/earlychildhooddevelopment/overview#3 World Bank Support to Early Childhood Development: An Independent Evaluation. 2015. http://ieg.worldbankgroup.org/Data/reports/early_child_dev_eval_0.pdf GMR 2015, pages 63-64. Global gains and growing pains. Education Assessment Paper: Benefits and Costs of the Education Targets for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Copenhagen Consensus, July 2014. http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/sites/default/files/education_assessment _psacharopoulos_0.pdf
  4. 4. Justine Kamuchocho Ngulube is Senior Program Officer For Early Childhood Development and Education under the Economic and Social Justice Cluster at the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) Johannesburg, South Africa

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