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Investing in Human Capital: Early Childhood Education

A happy group of boys and girls play together in a parkAddressing inequalities in access to and quality of early childhood education is essential to creating a better educational system. Teachers who understand the importance of early childhood education and the best practices for teaching young children can do their part to improve student outcomes.

In the world of finance, improving the lives of people and supporting their ability to reach their potential is known as investing in human capital. It’s such an important issue that the World Bank focuses on investing in human capital, especially with children, in its World Development Report.

The report makes the need to confront inequalities alarmingly clear. The World Bank estimates that due to risks of poor health and education, a child born now will, on average, reach only 56 percent of their full adult productivity. Barriers to achieving their full potential include inadequate nutrition, lack of stimulating learning and living in poverty and stress.

Educators can do their part in the area of learning by developing a deeper understanding of the best practices in early childhood education. Doing so supports their ongoing efforts to build a positive classroom environment.

A Plan for Investing in Human Capital

The World Bank approaches the issue of childhood poverty, poor healthcare and inadequate education through the lens of its impact on a child’s level of educational attainment, income and productivity in adulthood. They found that worldwide, children face a human capital crisis.

The report calls on governments to invest in human capital, “particularly early childhood education, to develop high-order cognitive and sociobehavioral skills in addition to foundational skills.”

The World Bank also developed an Investing in the Early Years framework with an educational component. The framework’s “three pillars” call for ensuring that:

  • Children are healthy and well nourished, especially in the first 1,000 days
  • Children receive early stimulation and learning opportunities
  • Children are nurtured and protected from poverty and stress

The Importance of Early Childhood Development

The World Bank reports that even children who experienced “stunting”a condition caused by long-term poor health, nutrition and lack of emotional supportexperienced improvement in their lives when exposed to stimulating environments and educational opportunities. For example, in Jamaica, children who experienced stunting but received high-quality early stimulation earned 25 percent higher wages as adults.

In another example of recognizing the importance of early childhood education, UNICEF joined with the World Bank in promoting early childhood development in Kosovo as critical to maximizing human development and economic prosperity in that country. The effort is intended to counter some troubling trends in Kosovo, including that only 15 percent of three-to-four-year-olds in the country attend any form of early education.

Early childhood education also is part of the Healthy People 2030 program from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program seeks to address socioeconomic and educational inequalities that impact health outcomes for people in the United States.

Six of the objectives in the Healthy People 2030 program directly relate to childhood education:

  • Increase the proportion of children who participate in high-quality early childhood education programs
  • Increase the proportion of 4th-graders who read at or above proficient level
  • Increase the proportion of 4th-graders with math skills at or above proficient level
  • Increase the proportion of children and adolescents who communicate positively with their parents
  • Increase the proportion of children whose families read to them at least four days per week
  • Increase the proportion of children developmentally ready for school

While these efforts can have a significant impact on lifelong human capital formation, they require coordination across many different areas to drive better outcomes for children. Educators play a fundamental role in this effort.

Fresno Pacific University's Early Childhood Education Certificate Program

Given the importance of early childhood development, educators want to ensure they have the latest skills for delivering the best student outcomes. The Fresno Pacific University Early Childhood Education Certificate program prepares teachers with those skills. By earning the certificate, educators are also ready to become leaders in early childhood education and help find solutions to human capital challenges.

Educators completing the certificate program can address the needs of early childhood students, including those with special needs. The certificate program consists of five courses that teachers choose from a list of course options:

  • Early Childhood Education: Guiding Documents
  • Observation / Assessment of Young Children
  • Guidance in Social / Emotional Behavior
  • Differentiated Instruction: Young Learner
  • Inclusion of Children with Exceptionalities
  • Science for Young Learners
  • Early Literacy and Core Standards
  • Parents as Partners in Early Childhood
  • Counting and Other Early Math Skills

All these courses prepare teachers to help students maximize their talents and skills, giving them a better chance to reach their potential. In their own way, teachers can make the most important investment in human capital and significantly impact students' lives, even in adulthood.