Hirokazu Yoshikawa - "Children Do Not Just Need to Survive – They Also Need to Thrive"




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Jun 24, 2015
by Rachitaa Gupta and Stuart Milne
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Hirokazu Yoshikawa - "Children Do Not Just Need to Survive – They Also Need to Thrive"

Globalization and education professor, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, talks about the evidence supporting early childhood development and education Hirokazu Yoshikawa speaking during Session 542 Early Childhood Development and Education

Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Courtney Sale Ross University professor of globalization and education at New York University believes that investing in early childhood development and education will be key to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the next 15 years.

While chairing Designing a Social Compact for the 21st Century: Early Childhood Development and Education, Yoshikawa spoke to Salzburg Global Seminar about the evidence that supports the need of early childhood development and why governments around the world need to start focusing on same.

"If we want to achieve sustainable societies and survival of the planet, we can’t not invest in human development and that starts prenatally," explains Yoshikawa.

The Millennium Development Goals only focused on infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate, but Yoshikawa believes that needs to change to achieve human development and growth within planetary boundaries.

According to him, children do not just need to survive. They also need to thrive.

Decades of science from different disciplines all point to the same conclusion: the healthy development of children provides a strong foundation for healthy and competent adulthood, responsible citizenship, economic productivity, strong communities, and a sustainable society.

There is extensive evidence, he says, that supports this conclusion.

The randomized experiments, according to Yoshikawa, have shown that over a period of time the cost benefit ratio of investing in to early childhoods is quite high. 

“In quality of early childhood experience, returns to society is $5-$8 for every dollar invested,” he says.

Not only that, but of the scientific ranking which deems which development goals are worth the most from an economic perspective, Yoshikawa says that the early childhood development ranks in the top five.

He also explains that the quality of services that will be provided as part of policy and programs under the SDGs has to be decided by each country through a consensus building process. 

“The conversation has to involve diverse set of stakeholders in every country – e.g., civil society, government, NGOs, parents, citizens – to come to an agreement, to what children deserve. These children are too young to tell us. We have to rely on research base. We need to rely on cultural values and norms of societies and the expectations, citizens of a country have, what constitutes a productive member of that country’s society.”

However, the SDGs are still in writing stage. Global inputs are expected to continue for next several months and by the end of 2015 the wording will be finalized. “It is an unprecedented global effort. It is an exciting time and a historic one for the world,”, says Yoshikawa.

During this time collaborations like the program Early Childhood Development and Education at Salzburg Global are important in providing tools and guidelines for UN member nations because, as Yoshikawa explains: “The SDGs are not going to come with a guide to child development.

“Indicators scattered across the goals will be relevant to children and there needs to be some guidance that brings those together and then links them to concrete policy and practice steps.”

The interdisciplinary collaborations at the session were the highlight for Yoshikawa as early childhood fields had not engaged in anything like this before.

“The challenge and opportunities for the SDGs is that people who work in human development areas have to learn and think about people who work in the environmental sustainability area, the biodiversity area and move beyond health and education.”

Following his involvement in the Salzburg Global session, Yoshikawa assisted in the compilation and editing of the “Salzburg Statement on Quality Early Childhood Development and Education for All Girls and Boys” which can be read online below:

Click here to download the Statement as a PDF


The Salzburg Global session Designing a Social Compact for the 21st Century: Early Childhood Development and Education was held in partnership with ETS (Educational Testing Service). More information on the session can be found here: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/542