Early years, lifetime gains
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Early years, lifetime gains

By Joshua Grant Empleo

The Parable in the book of Matthew of the Wise and Foolish Builders teaches us the importance of a strong foundation. Scripture reminds us how the wise build on rocks, while the foolish build on the sand, the latter shall witness his house collapse when the tempests and downpours come.

In a similar, but secular vein, investing in Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) becomes the cornerstone for a bright and successful future.

Nobel laureate James Heckman's research reveals how critical it is to invest during a child's early years. A quick Google search about the “Heckman Curve” will display a simple concave graph showing that the earlier you invest in a child’s education, the higher the rate of return on financial investment.

Moreover, it is during these years that the most essential cognitive, social, emotional, and physical aspects of the child develop. A failure to nurture these aspects will lead to irreversible consequences.

For example, the first 1,000 days of a child's life are crucial for brain development. Stunting happens when there is inadequate nutrition in those essential years. If left unaddressed, the brain and the body's growth is compromised forever. 

No amount of remediation and feeding programs in elementary, high school, and college can compensate for early childhood care. Doesn't it follow that the government ought to invest more in daycare and ECCD centers rather than Basic Ed or Higher Ed?

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

A study by the Synergeia Foundation in 2021 reveals that only 0.0004 percent was allocated to ECCD from the total 32 billion Special Education Funds of LGUs collectively.

It’s high time that our local government Chief Executives place emphasis and recognize the urgency of investing in ECCD. More pressure must come from civil society for their local government units to prioritize and allocate funds, especially for rural and poor communities. A comprehensive ECCD National System must be in place to reach the most disadvantaged children.

Putting children first is not only an economically sound decision, but it is, more importantly, a moral imperative. Preserving the family and protecting our children has always been a central Filipino ethos. May the words of hero Rizal gently remind us that our “children are the hope of the nation.”*


Joshua Grant T. Empleo, raised in the United Arab Emirates,  is a content creator and writer for the Office of Congressman Jose Francisco Kiko B. Benitez. He graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of St. La Salle Bacolod and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Public Management.

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