Nordic Leaders Urge Support for ECD Alongside Oslo Summit

Photo Courtesy of Jay Galvin.


Three leaders from Nordic GBC-Education members teamed up to send a message to world leaders, governments, donors and global education experts gathering in their backyard as The Oslo Summit on Education for Development unfolds today and tomorrow. Their message is loud and clear. World leaders and governments must increase and expand financing and investment for early childhood development and education.


In their opinion article published today in the Huffington Post, President of LEGO Education Jacob Kragh, VP Learning of Rovio Entertainment Ltd. Sanna Lukander and Acting Global Manager of H&M Conscious Foundation Maria Bystedt share how the Nordic countries are global leaders in education and stress why their organizations invest in early childhood development (ECD).


Nowhere are the benefits to education more important than in the early years. “We absolutely must allow all children to develop the skills that will help them create their future. Let´s help children continue to learn the natural way through fun, play and exploration – let´s help them hang on to their invaluable curious and creative minds,” Sanna Lukander says.


Governments have been recognizing this — and better yet, they have been responsive. Following the World Education Forum in Dakar fifteen years ago when world leaders met to determine the Millennium Development Goals, progress in pre-primary education enrollment initially accelerated; however momentum has waned in recent years. Progress has been uneven with only about 50 percent of children under the age of 5 enrolled in pre-primary globally, and only 17 percent from low-income countries. This situation is further complicated by the fact that there is no systematic data collection for early childhood financing, thereby limiting information on program-level spending and costs. Countries with the best intentions and plans cannot build sustainable policies and programming with this level of uncertainty. And while aid to basic education from donors has declined by nearly 20 percent over the past 10 years, countries in greatest need receive limited funds that are uncoordinated at best. Norway is the only country of the top 10 country donors to education that has increased its total aid over the past five years.


These Nordic leaders ask for other countries to follow their lead. As Maria Bystedt states: “The H&M Conscious Foundation has joined forces with UNICEF to provide quality early childhood development and care to more than 70,000 vulnerable children worldwide. Together, we will also publish the first-ever Global Report on Early Childhood Development, highlighting key early development indicators and help shift global perceptions of the importance of early childhood development. We ask the world to follow the Nordic country’s examples of providing quality care for the early years.”


GBC-Education members support investing in children in the early years in order to establish a strong foundation for life and ultimately achieve their full developmental potential. Along with the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, GBC-Education invests in early childhood development through the work of its Business for Early Childhood Development (Biz4ECD) Task Force. GBC-Education Executive Chair Sarah Brown, Stephan Turnipseed, of LEGO Education, and Tokunboh Durosaro, formerly of Oando Foundation, also signed an open letter — created and organized by ReadyNation — pressing UN leaders to include ECD as a priority in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.


Businesses also have a key role to play as Jacob Kragh states: “LEGO® Education offers playful learning experiences to help every student to succeed. Starting from the early years, we help stimulate children’s curiosity to explore together and learn through play. We encourage other companies to follow the lead of these Nordic companies and invest in this area as well. I’m also pleased that LEGO Education can lead GBC-Education’s efforts on early childhood development as it chairs the task force on the topic.”


The Oslo Summit will provide input for the UN International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa in July and ultimate adoption of the post-2015 development agenda during the UN General Assembly in New York in September. Access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education is already included as a target for the post-2015 development goal for education. Hopefully the voices of these leaders will ring clear in the minds of UN leaders as they meet and adopt these goals.