Learning Starts Before School

Early childhood – from birth to age 8 – is the most critical time of growth and learning in a child’s life. Yet it seems more of the world’s focus is on helping children learn after they enter the classroom. That’s why it was great to see two major events this week highlighting the benefits of early childhood development and education.

 

First, The Lancet, released new research on early childhood education. The research shows that giving all children the care and support they need early on helps children start on equal footing and have a better chance at succeeding at school.

 

The Lancet recommends coaching parents in activities that keep their babies healthy; and providing preschool for 3- to 5-year-olds.

 

Save the Children carries out both of these approaches globally in more than 20 countries, and I spoke at the report launch at the World Bank earlier this week sharing some of our innovative work.

 

We think that our early education program in El Salvador could serve as a model for many countries. It’s a new program, but we already excited by its potential for changing the course of child development in El Salvador.

 

Here’s how it works: in partnership with government’s Ministry of Health and the Academy of Pediatricians, Save the Children created a simple tool tool screen the developmental milestones of children under age 5. When parents bring their child for a health checkup, medical staff screen their child to identity risks early. At these visits, medical staff also share activities with parents to help strengthen their child’s developmental skills (such as practicing picking up sticks, which builds fine motor skills or repeating babies’ first sounds to build language skills). After the parents return home, a community health worker checks on the child’s progress, continues to guide the parents on their assigned activities and reports back to the medical staff.

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