The United Nations Messenger of Peace, Lang Lang, recently spent all day at a school in Beijing playing with kindergarten children. There, he shot a public service announcement with Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. All of this activity arose out of Lang Lang’s commitment to UNICEF’s early childhood development campaign.

UNICEF is advocating for worldwide early childhood development to be prioritized in the post-2015 international development agenda. Early childhood development is a key area of focus that could help bring improvements to countless other sectors.

Lang Lang is also a renowned pianist. By spending time with the children, Lang Lang was able to see firsthand how this Chinese model has used a combination of music, as well as creative art and play, to teach children ages 6 to 10.

Lang Lang compared the earliest years of a child’s life to early morning piano practice. It is easiest to remember a piano score first thing in the morning, with a fresh brain. In the same way, for young children, the early years are when learning first begins taking place. With time, the child’s worldview begins to take shape.

An estimated one in three children under the age of five in low- and middle-income countries are not reaching their full development. Evidence has shown that the quality of one’s early childhood is critical in shaping one’s lifetime development and happiness.

There are long-term consequences of early childhood development or the lack thereof. Chen Xuefeng, UNICEF China’s Early Childhood Development Specialist, points out that focusing on early childhood developmental improvements could help to break the cycle of poverty and build a more stable society.

The estimated returns on investment in early childhood care and education for disadvantaged children can be as high as 1:17. These numbers show that concentrated effort in this particular area is one of the most cost-effective strategies for reducing economic disparity.

China recently participated in a global meeting in South Korea called the World Education Forum. At this international meeting, the Declaration on Education 2030 was adopted, symbolizing the country’s commitment to make education a major focus in the 2015 agenda.

As September gets closer and the new Sustainable Development Goals must be set, the agenda focuses on areas that should be brought to the head of the discussion table. In order to successfully tackle the bigger issue of poverty, problems in areas like education, health and governance must first be solved.

International cooperation will be absolutely necessary in order to achieve the ultimate anti-poverty goal. Even more importantly, it is through action alone that change can be made. While pledges to purge the world of poverty are noble and not without impact, actions undoubtedly always speak louder than words.

– Sarah Bernard

Sources: Look to the Stars, UNICEF
Photo: BBC News