Quality early child development programmes crucial for progress

While I'm appreciative of good parental advice, my concern is that parents of low-income and emotionally distressed households may not be able to provide proper care, support and guidance to their children ("Teach your children well"; July 11).

For example, research has shown that children whose parents are divorced tend to have lower emotional and social quotient. These factors can affect children's educational attainments and upward mobility.

We need a more concerted effort to help disadvantaged children, especially the younger ones.

Recent findings show that early childhood development has significant impact on brain development, reduction of risky behaviour and quality of productivity and success for the rest of one's life.

It is unfortunate that consequences of negative childhood experiences can repeat cycles of poverty, restrict social mobility and set back future generations.

Tackling the challenges of early childhood development requires more than just proper housing and money. They have to be approached from a holistic perspective, including targeted interventions in the areas of quality intellectual and emotional care, nutrition, healthcare, and pre-school education.

While the Government has adopted commendable measures to address early childhood development, we need to ensure that these measures undergo constant review and improvements so as to adapt to changing times or conditions.

The Government should invest more in early childhood development and target critical areas in a more comprehensive way.

The Government needs to involve the help of multiple government agencies and other stakeholders, including parents, caregivers, teachers, social workers and healthcare workers, to address these cross-sectoral issues.

We need to help provide adequate nutrition to ensure proper physical development and social protection to support proper care and growth.

We need to also help support a healthy childhood experience and environment so as to enhance socio-emotional, cognitive and linguistic developments.

In addition, we need to conduct more studies to evaluate outcomes and impacts of early childhood development, especially on children from low-income families, so as to influence and strengthen the evidence-based policy-making process.

We need to provide stronger support for parents to send their children to well-run childcare centres and kindergartens, and ensure that these children are given adequate care and proper development.

There is a common saying that inequality starts at birth. For us to achieve progress for our nation, we need to eradicate such an inequality.

The quality of our nation-building process depends on the quality of our early childhood development, especially for children from poor, needy and disadvantaged families.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)