With 189 member countries, staff from more 170 countries, early childhood education early childhood education offices in over 130 locations, the World Bank Group is a unique global partnership: five institutions working for sustainable solutions that reduce poverty and build shared prosperity in developing countries. The World Bank Group works in every major area of development. We provide a wide array of financial products and technical assistance, and we help countries share and apply innovative knowledge and solutions to the challenges they face. We face big challenges to help the world’s poorest people and ensure that everyone sees benefits from economic growth.
Data and research help us understand these challenges and set priorities, share knowledge of what works, and measure progress. The World Bank supports early childhood development through financing, policy advice and more. Yet today, millions of young children are not reaching their full potential because inadequate nutrition, a lack of early stimulation, learning, and nurturing care, and exposure to stress adversely affect their development. In Africa alone, one third of children are stunted. Worldwide, only half of all three to six-year-olds have access to pre-primary education. In low income countries, just one in five children has access to preschool. One in 200 children in the world is displaced, exposing them to the kind of stress that can undermine their development.
Investments in young children are minimal: in Sub-Saharan Africa just 2 percent of the education budget goes to pre-primary education, while in Latin America government spending on children under 5 is a third of that for children 6 to 11. Smart investments in the physical, cognitive, linguistic, and socio-emotional development of young children —from before birth until they transition to primary school— are critical to put them on the path to greater prosperity, and to help countries be more productive and compete more successfully in a rapidly changing global economy. There is a growing body of evidence about what programs work: early childhood nutrition, early stimulation and learning programs to extend school completion, all improve learning outcomes, and ultimately increase adult wages. A 20-year study of children in Jamaica by Nobel laureate James Heckman, Paul Gertler and others showed that early stimulation interventions for infants and toddlers increased their future earnings by 25 percent—equivalent to adults who grew up in wealthier households.
12 countries found that children who attend preschool stay in school for nearly a year longer, on average, and are more likely to be employed in high-skilled jobs. Children in a long-term study in Guatemala who were not stunted were much more likely to escape poverty as adults, and earned incomes 5 to 50 percent higher than children who were stunted as children. Targeting mothers and their babies with health and nutrition interventions during the first 1,000 days, a critical period of brain development. Increasing the frequency and quality of stimulation and opportunities for home learning to improve cognitive, socioemotional and language development.