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There is a broad consensus on the importance of investment in human capital during early childhood as a driving force in the economic growth, development and equity of countries. The evidence suggests that the first years of a child’s life are important because the brain is particularly malleable and therefore there is great potential to improve the development trajectories of individuals through well-designed early interventions.
This evidence has driven the increase in investment from both developed and developing countries in early childhood programs. It is relevant to consider that universal access to quality care during early childhood in 2030 is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, significant difficulties are observed in the implementation of early childhood interventions. In many countries, national programs are made up of fragmented and low-quality services. The evidence suggests that it is not enough to expand coverage rates without guaranteeing the adequate quality of services.
The objective of this document is to define a comprehensive package of early childhood care based on evidence and its respective costing. This package can be used as the basis for the programmatic design of a national strategy for early childhood care in the countries. In addition to suggesting attention that has been shown to have considerable impacts in its small-scale version, aspects that have been shown to be essential to ensure its quality and sustainability on a larger scale are incorporated.
Recognizing that, unlike other public policies for investment in human capital, early childhood policy does not have a single objective, the document considers the holistic nature of human development during early childhood. Based on this approach, it proposes a comprehensive program design, where the interventions considered include elements that are transversal to multiple sectors including health, nutrition, care and education, rights protection and social protection.
The proposed attentions are based on the available scientific evidence about the relevance, effectiveness and sustainability of the services at each stage of the child’s development. For the cost of the package, minimum quality levels are assumed that, according to the available empirical evidence, could imply sufficiently large impacts for the children who benefit from the program. For example: frequency and duration of services, staff training before and during the intervention, supervision and accompaniment of teachers and facilitators, delivery of pedagogical material, etc.
The report is divided into two central areas and an annex; the first section presents a description of the comprehensive care package for children between the ages of zero and five, and the second section presents the cost analysis of the care package. The annex details and provides the information used to define the cost, allowing the estimated cost for the Colombian reality to be adjusted to the reality of other countries.
This report is only available in Spanish.