Tue. Jun 25th, 2024
Meenakshi Dahal Representative Nepal

Most of the governments in developing countries do not see the long-term impact of investing in human capital. They come to power for a five- year term and desire to show immediate results so that they are chosen for the next term. Investing in human capital requires to sustain and systematic effort beside political willingness and patience. Human development is so closely linked with sustainable development that you cannot think of separating them. It means investing in the early years of children will help these children to be more productive and contribute to the country and world at large’s peace and progress. If we are to improve our education system we need to concentrate on Early Childhood Development (ECD).

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present an opportunity to connect early childhood development with efforts to create equity, productivity, prosperity, and sustainable growth for a more peaceful future. Children are the basis for all dimensions of sustainable development. “They have a right to thrive, develop to their full potential, and live in a sustainable world” (Chan, 2013). Many argue that sustainable development demands integrated interventions for poverty reduction, health, education, agriculture and energy, gender equality, and social inclusion. For this, the country requires a clear vision and capacity.

From the perspectives of SDGs, health, learning, and behavior during children’s early years are foundational not only for school success but also for their capacity to contribute meaningfully to society. Children’s growth and development are profoundly shaped by the educational, social, and economic opportunities afforded them by adults in a range of contexts. Early childhood development is directly addressed in Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.” It is specifically mentioned in Target 4.2. (SDG 2030). However, ECD is not limited to one area of development. ECD and achieving the SDGs are highly interlinked. ECD has a strong multiplier effect which can transform individuals, communities, and societies. It is reflected across the framework and contributes to achieving all of the goals. Equally, achieving the SDGs is essential to creating an environment in which all children can thrive (ARNEC, 2016).

Research over the last two decades has shown that the early years, especially 0 -5 years, are the most important period of a child’s life. This is when the brain is built, and foundations are laid for lifelong health and learning. For the first time, Early Childhood Development (ECD) has been prioritized on the global development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has a specific target under Education for ECD with complementary targets under Health, Nutrition, and Protection. With this global recognition of the importance of the early years, ECD is becoming an important developmental priority globally. The provision of ECD services is on the rise and multiple stakeholders are involved in the delivery of ECD services which vary widely in modality, focus, and quality. With these recognitions and priorities, there are some specific interventions required to enhance quality, uniformity, and accessibility to all the stakeholders.

To address ECD programs multidisciplinary efforts are needed. This demands, clear policy guidelines with political commitments, authorized lead Ministry to support and regulate, continuous capacity building programs for policymakers to the parents/ caregivers. It also requires adequate investment in the programs. ECD services must be accompanied by mechanisms to improve ECD service standards, strong regulatory mechanism, and the minimum standard is required at the country level.

By Dr. Meenakshi Dahal

The writer is an educationalist and columnist from Nepal

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