Designing a Social Compact for the 21st Century
Early Childhood Development and Education

By Michael Nettles

All children deserve the best start in life, and that calls for investing in worldwide access to quality early childhood (prenatal to age eight) development and education.

In April, I had the opportunity to partner with the Salzburg Global Seminar for a three-day strategy session on “Designing a Social Compact for the 21st Century: Early Childhood Development and Education,” co-hosted by ETS and attended by 40 international education and policy leaders.

This was a rare opportunity for leaders in early childhood education from around the world to collaborate and, perhaps more important, learn from one another. The challenges of providing access to quality education for early learners is not unique to the United States, and together we can move closer to solutions for all children around the world when we embrace diverse approaches to these issues.

Based on the findings of the strategy session, we published the Salzburg Statement, recommending improvements in six key areas:

  • Leadership and Coordinated Governance: designating leaders to guide the building of accountability into early childhood development and education processes, as well as bolster evidence-based agendas and build partnerships
  • Quality: ensuring services are high quality by providing appropriate funds, qualified staff and proper oversight to support all areas of early development
  • Finance: expand and maintain diverse funding sources to provide quality services, prioritize at-risk children and families, and mobilize leaders to advocate for investment in initiatives
  • Data and Measurement: support ongoing research, design measures to track early childhood development, promote the use of open-source data strategies
  • Workforce: defining competencies, strengthening training in higher education, requiring decent compensation, developing multifaceted support systems and promoting diversity in the early childhood workforce
  • Family and Community: support family engagement and well-being as a fundamental component of quality, recognize diversity and promote strategic community partnerships

ETS partnered with the Salzburg Global Seminar on “Designing a Social Compact for the 21st Century” because our two organizations share a mission of helping to advance education worldwide.

With this in mind on our domestic front, ETS is partnering with Sesame Workshop® and the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) in planning a national symposium on early childhood education, preschool age 4 and kindergarten, with a focus on preschool age 4 learning standards, kindergarten readiness and the role of technology in early learning linked to closing achievement gaps. This symposium is being held on Friday, September 18, 2015, in Washington, D.C., at the National Press Club.

The focus is on children of underserved populations, including those living in poverty. The intent is to generate and discuss ideas that can be converted into better policies and practices for preschool and kindergarten children in the United States. The program will feature prominent keynote speakers and multiple panels composed of experts in the various areas of early childhood. Each session will include commentary and question-and-answer sessions among panelists and between panelists and attendees. The symposium is open to the public, and will bring together people who have a critical stake in the future of early childhood education, specifically preschool age 4 and kindergarten, including state early learning directors, practitioners, policymakers, government and philanthropic officials, experts in the field of early literacy, education and assessment, and community leaders.

The goal is for participants to learn from one another and formulate solutions to closing achievement gaps among young children.

We can close the achievement gap, but we need more than hope for our children: We need access to high-quality education for all children, starting at a young age, so that all have the opportunity to succeed.