At PEP, we rely on scientific evidence to prioritise our focus areas.
The research is conclusive: early childhood development is a critical influence on economic, health and social outcomes for individuals.
children are natural learners
Children have a natural, voracious appetite to learn new things. For example, we don’t need to teach children their mother tongue in a classroom; they absorb language just by being exposed to it. This ability to pick up language is just one example of the natural capacity we have for learning.
All children proceed through stages of development from infancy to adulthood. At certain unique points (“sensitive periods”) of time, children display an ability to effortlessly learn specific skills if they are appropriately introduced. Sensitive periods can come at different points for different children; hence the one-size-fits-all, whole-class instruction led nature of traditional schools comes in conflict with the rhythms of natural learning. In contrast, a more child-centric approach that is responsive to each child individually can reinforce learning powerfully.
90% of the brain develops by 5
Research shows that upto 90% of brain development happens by the age of 5. Early childhood education is thus critical and formative: academic studies have shown the effects of experiences in the early years are persistent over time. The gaps between individuals at age 18 that help explain differences in life outcomes can be traced back to their differences at age 5.
Thus, high quality early childhood education can build the foundation necessary of success in school, health, career and life. Yet, it is often this phase of development that is marked by lower-quality teachers and under-informed parents.
Non-cognitive factors are crucial
Nobel Laureate James Heckman’s pioneering work with a group of economists, neuroscientists and psychologists has shown that early childhood education also influences later-life economic, health and social outcomes through the mechanism of “non-cognitive” skills. These are character traits like attentiveness, impulse-control, perseverance and sociability.
Together, cognition and character drive education, career and life success—with character development often being the critical factor. Yet many early child education programs are designed to promote only cognitive development. The most effective approaches integrate cognitive skill development with the inculcation of character skills.
skills beget skills
Effective early childhood education is doubly fruitful: it not only helps children directly develop skills in the present, but also helps children to acquire the capacity to learn in the future.
The nature of human skill formation is such that skills acquired early in life make it easier to acquire skills later; in other words, skills beget skills and capabilities foster capabilities. This “compounding”, self-reinforcing effect of skills means that the individuals that most quickly adapt to a fast-changing world are those that have had a good base of skills instilled in early childhood.