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Chairman of the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughn, has stressed the importance of investing in early childhood development, noting that spending in this area offers the highest rate of return to the society.
“Early childhood development is important to Jamaica as it is to any other country, because this is the time that children’s brains are developing maximally and it is also the time when we get the greatest investment on education. For every dollar invested in a child in the early childhood period, we get return on investment of about 17-18 times and it is the highest rate of return,” she stated in a recent interview with JIS News.
According to Professor Samms-Vaughn, the return on investment comes in many forms, and these include a reduction in crime and violence and teenage pregnancy; higher educational levels and school attainment; and fewer people being dependent on the state for support.
The ECC, which is celebrating five years of existence this year, is the agency of Government mandated to administer care, education and development of the nation’s children under the age of six years.
Professor Samms-Vaughn said that the ECC has achieved a lot since its 2003 inception.
“After five years, I can say that we have done a lot in terms of a guiding policy. We are the agency that originated the idea for the National Parenting Policy, because we realise how important parenting is to children’s development. We have also developed the National Plan of Action of early screening and intervention, we have done a lot of work in terms of education and had annual conferences… and we have just produced a book on the rights of a young child to guide everyone, from policy maker to parents,” she told JIS News.
In the meantime, the ECC is working assiduously to ensure that all early childhood institutions (ECIs) have relevant information about early childhood development.
“Through this year, we will be producing and publishing all the standards and every ECI will get a recipe manual and an operational manual. We have also worked to upgrade the Levels 1 and 2 early childhood programme and develop new Level 3 programmes. We have also produced a number of publications for parents and to guide persons about early childhood education,” Professor Samms-Vaughn informed.
There are over 2,000 early childhood institutions in the country. Jamaica has one of the highest enrolment rates in the region for the four to six age group, with more than 80 per cent of these students enrolled in community-operated basic schools, and just fewer than 20 per cent are in other types of institutions, which benefit from Government subsidies.

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