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Early Childhood Is Ripe For Investment in Innovation, Says Philanthropic Network

Entrepreneurs are launching innovative projects to support young children and their caregivers, but the investment pales compared to the investments aimed at children in kindergarten through 12th grade, says a new report from a philanthropic investment group. 

The Omidyar Network is trying to draw more interest to public and private investment in the early years. 

In the report "Big Ideas, Little Learners", released Jan. 9, the network shines a spotlight on several organizations that are already doing work in early childhood, and describes areas where more investment would be transformative. The Omidyar Network, founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, has invested more than $1 billion in multiple areas, including education. 

Omidyar report chart

Isabelle Hau, an investment partner at the network and its leader of U.S. education strategy, said there's a growing understand of the importance of the early years among parents, teachers, and policymakers. 

At the same time, the national investment in early-childhood programs in the United States is far below that of other industrialized nations. A 2017 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that the United States spent about 0.4 percent of its gross domestic product on early childhood, compared to an average of 0.8 percent of GDP from other countries surveyed. 

Hau said that the fragmentation of early-childhood programs is one barrier to investment. But the report outlined several programs that are helping provide more high-quality options for children, as well as professional development for teachers and providers.

For example, the report mentions Every Child Ready , a preschool instructional model created by AppleTree, which provides free public charter preschools in the District of Columbia. The Every Child Ready program also received an Investing in Innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Education. 

Other programs included in the report include Wonderschool, which helps home-based day-care providers, and programs at Arizona State University and the University of Oklahoma that allow early-childhood educators to earn a degree without debt in exchange for teaching in-state. 

Those are just a few of the programs mentioned in the report, but they should offer ideas for future growth, Hau said. "Instead of a focus on scarcity, we want to put a focus on possibility around this new generation," she said. 

Image Source: "Big Ideas, Little Learners" report

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