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Copenhagen Consensus Center

Best buys for Africa: Preschool education in sub-Saharan Africa

Fast-track Analysis

Early childhood education has recently received increased attention among policy makers based on the research findings of two different disciplines – neuroscience and economics.

• According to neuroscience, cognitive, emotional and social behavior is formed very early in life. Brain synapses are formed in the first few years of life. Brain scans have shown abnormal development for children who have been maltreated in very young ages.


• According to economics, interventions at early ages are more cost-effective than interventions later in life and are associated with high rates of return and cost-benefit ratios.

Much of the related research has been compiled and disseminated by economics Nobel Laureate James Heckman and illustrated in a famous graph.