A new study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has found that hundreds of millions of children are losing daily learning opportunities resulting in potentially large losses in education, health, income and productivity over their lifetimes due to pre-primary‑programme closures amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In addition to the devastating impact on children’s mental, physical and emotional health, the report titled, “Economic Costs of Pre-primary Programme Reductions due to COVID-19 Pandemic”, estimates that the pandemic will also negatively impact the level of income that these children will earn as adults.
The Washington-based financial institution said this study is the first to simulate losses due to pre-primary programme closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic on future earnings when current preschool‑age children become adults for 140 countries.
The international financial institution said its specialists analysed 140 countries with a combined population of 6.4 billion people.
It said the results are “alarming.” For example, the study says closure of pre-school for six months means losses in future salaries equivalent to 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Peru, 4.1 per cent in Mexico, and 3.5 per cent in Jamaica.
The simulation also includes preschool closure scenarios for three and 12 months, the IDB said.
“The importance of early childhood development has been long documented. The child’s brain grows more in the first five years than in the rest of his life, so what happens during these preschool ages is essential for the full development of a person, including emotional aspects, health and productivity.
“Access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education is essential for children’s intellectual development, later educational progress and lifetime earnings. The training and accumulation of skills is key to breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty, so the interruption of educational services can deepen pre-existing inequities.”
The study says public policies must mitigate the effects of preschool programs’ closures “to reduce potential unprecedented losses in early childhood, particularly for children from poorer backgrounds.
“A better distribution of internet access, computers and other electronic devices, creation of more hospitable and safer environments at home for early childhood education, support for vulnerable parents with hybrid modalities to improve parenting practices, more mental health resources and delivery of nutritious foods are some examples of policies that could preserve young children’s physical, mental, and emotional development, both immediately, and in the long run,” the study adds.