Spend more aid on early years education for a life of opportunity
A child’s most important steps happen before they set foot in a primary school. By their fifth birthday, their brain will already be 90% developed and the foundations for success at school and in later life will be in place.
However, despite all the evidence that pre-primary education is vital, millions of children continue to miss out on the chance of a great start in life. Access to pre-primary education continues to be a lottery, dependent on where a child is born.
In 2016 World Bank experts said money spent on early childhood development is “the smartest investment a country can make … If a child gets the healthcare, nutrition, affection, stimulation, and education that she needs – the gains she makes in those early years are hers for life.”
But research published on Wednesday by children’s charity Theirworld reveals that development spending – aid – is missing out education for young children. Despite increases in funding for early childhood development, just 1% of aid for under-sixes goes to education, putting millions of children at a disadvantage before they even start primary school.
Support for learning is the best investment a government can make, for the child, their community and country. It reduces inequality in education and leads to better outcomes for all. This is why governments around the world agreed thesustainable development goal target that by 2030 all children should have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary learning “so that they are ready for primary education”.
But the reality is that the lack of equitable access to pre-primary education means more than 200 million children aged five and under in developing countries are at risk of failing to reach their full potential.
This means inequality within a country starts at a very young age. For example, in Ghana, a boy from a wealthy household and urban area is more than twice as likely to attend pre-primary school than a girl from a poor household who lives in a rural area.
The evidence also shows that the benefits of early years education are greatest for the most marginalised and disadvantaged, including children with disabilities, those with HIV and Aids, or those caught up in conflict or disasters. These young people are often the least prepared for primary school or most likely to miss out on the opportunity completely.