Last week, the World Forum on Early Care and Education met in Puerto Rico to discuss early education policy, practices and national agendas on the world’s youngest citizens.
Early Education: A Global Concern
Hosted by the World Forum Foundation, this annual conference included participants from the Middle East/North Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa; Asia; Oceania; Central/Eastern Europe; Western Europe; South America; Caribbean/Central America; and North America. Bright Horizons is one of the World Forum Visionary sponsors of this prestigious event. More than 830 delegates from 81 countries attended.
Clearly, the subject of young children is of utmost concern. UNICEF’s Pia Britto talked about her organization’s 2015 Millennium Development Goals and the importance of understanding the educational and care needs of our youngest children.
Highlighting a Critical Need
This need was highlighted even further by a breakout session on the importance of focusing on the first 1000 days in a child’s life. Initiatives focused on this are starting to gain traction worldwide. In South Africa, for example, leaders are moving to identify how to structure family supports specifically for infants and toddlers.
These discussions are timely and critical. Horizons Workforce Consulting’s experience in India has shown that in places with limited or no standards for the care and education of young children, clarity on how infants and toddlers should be cared for are completely unclear. And while there might be limited standards for the care of older children, the special needs of the very young are often missed entirely. And these gaps come at the peril of the children themselves.
What This Means for Employer-Sponsored Child Care
That was one of the reasons we developed our International Best Practices for Child Care. It’s an outline for organizations who are considering investing in child care & early education supports for employees around the world. In place of country specific regulations, these standards can serve as a guide for how care should be considered for young children in group settings.
Listening to the Voices of Young Children
An important takeaway from the World Forum is the reminder that while children may only make up 20% of a population, they make up 100% of the future. While it’s true that children and families may live differently – and embrace different traditions – around the world, the importance of meeting their needs in the first 1000 days is a universal imperative…no matter where in the world they are.
Young children can’t wait and their voices – and needs – must be heard. And thanks to the thousands of early education advocates, providers, researchers, and leaders around the world, now they are.