Leveling the playing field

Our Early Childhood Development program gives kids the skills they need to succeed not only in school but in life.

A child’s early years are a “critical foundational moment in human development,” according to USAID (United States Agency for International Development). The World Bank agrees. It reports early childhood education leads not only to higher school completion rates and intelligence scores but also to better nutrition and health status, improved social and emotional behavior and even greater numbers of women in the workforce.

Each morning, 3-year-old Rosmery pulls her mother’s hand to hurry her up the stairs of their CI community center in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Preschool: Asset or necessity?

Many experts have long considered preschool to be a “good opportunity” for those who are fortunate enough to attend – more of an advantage than a necessity. Until recently, that is. Research today proves that early education is critical to a child’s success – and has lifelong outcomes.

Plus, as early as age 3, researchers have found a “readiness gap” – the difference in basic schoolwork skills when you compare kids from poor families to kids from wealthier ones.

On the second floor, they arrive in a brightly decorated room filled with books and toys. Rosmery puts away her backpack and sits at a colorful table with her friends. She’s ready for class!

Building self-reliance

With research to back up the need, CI has begun to implement Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs for kids like Rosmery in six of the countries where we work.

Kids in Guayaquil, Ecuador, imitate their teacher in a game.

 Rosmery’s mother, Virginia, says the program is giving her daughter confidence. “Since starting the classes,” Virginia says, “Rosmery teaches me what she learns. She’s very motivated, and it shows every day.”

When Rosmery is finally ready for primary school, Virginia adds, “She will be more prepared.”

Preschoolers in Lusaka, Zambia, learn skills such as hand-eye coordination (like this balancing game).

ECD around the world

Virginia isn’t alone in her appreciation of CI’s program. More than 1,400 miles away, Patricia from Quito, Ecuador, mother of 5-year-old Maite, says the classes “allow Maite to strengthen her motor, cognitive and language skills. It lays the foundation for formal education and decreases the chance of dropping out of school.”

Fly 7,300 miles east of Quito, and you’ll find Isaac in Lusaka, Zambia. He takes his 8-year-old granddaughter, Alisha, to her ECD class on a daily basis. “Alisha enjoys coming to school every day,” he says. “I can see the positive changes in her since she started attending ECD. She is very interactive, confident and happy. The shy Alisha is gone.”

Alisha, 8, has become more confident since attending ECD classes in Lusaka, Zambia.

Shrinking the gap

With the help of ECD programs, the readiness gap is disappearing. Teacher Miriam Morales from Quito says, “Early education decreases the development gap between impoverished children and the wealthy. Our children can now attend primary school with the same preparation as other kids.”

When class begins, Rosmery’s face shifts from anticipation to joy. She may not realize it at her young age, but she’s building a strong base for the rest of her life.

Preschoolers in Lusaka trace a classmate and take turns coloring in facial features and clothing during their ECD class.

Reporting assistance by Erenia Mesa, Andrés Rosero, Patricia Huerta and Audrey Hamayanda.

Watch a video about CI’s Early Childhood Development program.