Photo by Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank.

Yesterday the World Bank Group President Jim Kim and UNICEF Executive Director Tony Lake announced a new partnership between the two organizations that aims to raise early childhood development (ECD) to the top of the global agenda and to expand access to ECD programs to young children around the world. Mr. Kim and Mr. Lake also strongly urged other donor organizations, governments, foundations, and the private sector to highly prioritize ECD and invest more in the first years of children’s lives.

According to Mr. Kim, expanding access to quality ECD programs is both “morally the right thing to do and economically the smart thing to do.” In addition to leveling the playing field for poor and marginalized children entering primary school, ECD programs have high returns on investments and have been shown to be more cost effective than later interventions. Studies suggest that every $1 invested in quality pre-school programs yields returns of $6 – $17.

Mr. Lake discussed how the definition of quality ECD programs should expand to be more comprehensive and must include the three components of nutrition, stimulation, and protection. He described, for example, how early toxic stress from neglect, abuse, or violence can irreparably damage the brain development of a young child, explaining, “when you strike your child, you’re not only hurting her feelings, you’re damaging her future.”

With more than 200 million children in the developing world at risk of not reaching their full developmental potential due to poverty, malnutrition, poor health, and inadequate learning opportunities,[1] the time to invest in early childhood development is now.

GBC-Education has been supporting corporates engaging in ECD since 2014 through the creation of a Business for Early Childhood Development (Biz4ECD) Task Force launched with the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution. Since its creation, the Business for ECD Task Force’s aim has been to demonstrate the value that businesses attach to investing in young children by using its collective power to influence global discussions as well as country and company policies and practices. Through establishing a common message that highlights the business case for investments in ECD, advocating the ECD case to businesses policymakers, and implementing programs on the ground, the task force will continue to work to effect change at company, country, and global levels.

“The case for investing in education is clear: beyond promoting economic growth and curtailing poverty, education also improves health and fosters peace,” wrote business leaders in a Huffington Post op-ed co-authored by LEGO Education, Rovio Entertainment Ltd., and H&M Conscious Foundation during the Oslo Summit on Education for Development. “Nowhere are these benefits more important than in the first few years of a child’s life which lay the foundation for cognitive and non-cognitive functions, social interactions, and future success.”

To learn more about the importance of ECD investments and GBC-Education’s work on ECD, see our brief on Early Childhood Development.

If you missed the event, you can view the live stream here.

[1] UNESCO (2015). EFA Global Monitoring Report 2015. Education for all 2000-2015: Achievements and challenges.