The Importance of Early Childhood Education
Why is education important?
Education is a key factor in the welfare of children. In addition, it has a large effect on a country’s economy and the overall health of all its citizens. Education goes a long way, and investing in education is one of the most important ways with which we can improve our world.
The first three to five years play a key role in a child’s life as they begin to absorb the world around them and develop. These experiences that children have early in their lives affect their development physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially. The best investment to ensure the future success of a child is to invest in the early years of their lives, through education . Children develop the healthiest when they are provided environments in which they can explore the world around them, play with others, and learn to speak and listen to others . Early neurological development even affects the way one may learn later in life, if children don’t learn in their early childhood they may have more trouble learning in the future .
Education is a powerful weapon, it can reduce poverty, increase income, boost economic growth, increase the chance for one to have a healthy life, reduce maternal deaths, combat diseases like HIV and AIDS, promote gender equality, reduce child marriage and promote peace . Education can do so many things to improve lives, and it is one of the most important investments a country can make for its people and its future.
These are some enlightening statistics from the Global Partnership of Education that illustrate the importance of early childhood education and education as a whole:
- One extra year of schooling increases an individual’s earnings by up to 10%.
- Children of educated mothers are more likely to be vaccinated and less likely to be stunted because of malnourishment.
- Each additional year of schooling raises average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 0.37%.
- A child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live past the age of five.
- If the enrollment rate for secondary schooling is 10 percentage points higher than the average, the risk of war is reduced by about 3 percentage points.
- Wages, agricultural income and productivity are higher where women involved in agriculture receive a better education.
- If all mothers completed primary education, maternal deaths would be reduced by two-thirds, saving 189,000 lives.
Having access to early education can provide children, who have been marginalized by poverty, ethnicity, disability, location or gender, with the means to engage in academics. For children living in disaster areas, education is lifesaving. Schools provide structure and stability to help children cope with the trauma they’ve experienced, it offers them the opportunity to see their friends and socialize, and can potentially provide shelter in times of emergency. Having their children return to school means parents can go back to work and provide for their families. Education is consistently named one of the top priorities of parents and children affected by crises. Education boosts economic growth, reduces poverty and inequality, and contributes to restoring peace and stability .
Around the world, over 150 million children ages 3 to 5 do not have access to pre-primary education. This includes over 80% of the children living in low-income countries . In countries affected by emergencies, children lose homes, family, friends, routine and safety. If children aren’t provided with a means for education, they are at risk of losing their futures too. Over the last 50 years the world has seen increasing numbers of crisis stemming from conflict, natural disasters and epidemics. Many of these crisis span entire childhoods and persist for generations, which jeopardizes not only the future of each child but the entire community .
What can we do?
Though there has been progress made over the last few years, there are still millions of children denied their right to education. Poverty persists through generations in communities without access to education, and education is a basic human right. As declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, each boy and girl has the right to a quality education . With an education, these children can have more chances in life like employment opportunities and political participation. Countries that provide this quality early childhood education to their citizens tend to outperform countries that do not properly educate their youth .
Pre-primary education exists in many countries, but children from poor families, in remote rural areas, who speak minority languages, have disabilities or are affected by emergencies, cannot afford them and miss out . Lack of investment by governments is a large problem in low and middle-income countries, and unless governments, donors and partners provide more funds for early education, then the learning crisis and economic inequality will persist.
Though education has enormous benefits for children, it is often one of the first services lost in crisis areas, and the last service restored to a crisis area . This is where Happy Hearts Fund comes in.
 Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. (2011) Importance of early childhood development.
 Global Partnership for Education. (2017). Early Childhood care and Education.
 Hertzman, Clyde. (2010). Framework for the Social Determinants of Early Child Development. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.
 Mustard, J. Fraser. (2010). Early Brain Development and Human Development. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.
 UNICEF. (2017). Early Learning.