A severe lack of investment in early education is putting millions of children worldwide at a disadvantage before they even start school, according to a report from Theirworld. The report, titled Bright and Early: How funding pre-primary education gives every child a fair start in life, points out that 85% of children in low-income countries do not have access to pre-primary and that more than 200 million children under the age of five are at risk of failing to reach their potential.
Written by Asma Zubairi and Pauline Rose of REAL Centre, University of Cambridge, the report says that early childhood, from birth to age five, is the most critical developmental stage in a child’s life. By age five, children’s brains are 90% developed. The authors state that early childhood interventions should support four key developmental domains—physical, cognitive, linguistic and socio-emotional development. They note that having a pre-primary education can have a significant impact on children’s prospects in education and in adult life.
Every $1 invested in early childhood care and education can bring a return of as much as $17 for the most disadvantaged children, according to the report. However, despite all the evidence that pre-primary education is vital, access continues to be a “lottery,” dependent upon where a child is born. For instance, children born in the Latin America and Caribbean region are more than twice as likely to be in pre-primary education than children born in sub-Saharan Africa.
Furthermore, national governments and many donors devote disproportionate amounts of their investments in education to higher education. Of 46 low- and middle-income countries for which such data is available, 40 spend a larger share of their education budget on tertiary rather than pre-primary education.
For further details, including recommendations and a link to download the full report, visit this page on the Theirworld website.