Mr Palm's speech during the forum on "Crèches, their challenges and today's achievements" on 3 December 2012
How many of you are studying architecture? .... How many of you are employed in the civil service?.... How many of you are in a teaching profession?... Who is working in the industry?
Good, that should be all of you. Chances are that, when you were a toddler, your parents looked very well after you.
Because the first years of a child's life determine what will come out of her when she is an adult. It is during the first years of a child, that the brain architecture is formed.
During a child's interaction with adults, in those very early years - I am talking here about children from birth to three years - the neural circuits are formed that determine whether the person will later be a good learner, whether she will relate well to others, will communicate well, and generally whether she will succeed in life or not.
The formation of the brain takes place at an astonishing speed. But it needs stimulation. Pedagogues refer to it as "serve and return". This positive interaction is important - the amount of attention we give to our young children will determine whether they become good students or whether they will struggle in school.
Here are some slides that show you what is happening in the early years of a child.....
This all is to show the importance of good care for our young children. What has not been right in the first three years, is very difficult to correct later in life. If chances are missed, they may not come again.
So we need to invest adequately in children when they are young. I am now talking to educators, and officials from central and local governments. The money for education is best spent, when children are young.
There is also evidence that public investment has the biggest return, if we make sure that children from the most marginalized groups of people are receiving good early child care. In other words, crèches and kindergartens for children of rich people are very good; crèches and kindergarten where children from poor families can participate are better.
The quality of care for children is very important. A kindergarten where the children are mainly placed in a corner and are looking after themselves may waste opportunity and money. Crèches and kindergartens are important life-shaping experience for children, and we need to ensure the best quality of services and facility that is available.
So, with this, I need to repeat my appeal that society - this means the national policy makers and municipal and communal authorities need to budget properly for facilities and services for the very young children.
Of course this means well qualified and compensated personnel; it means a small ratio of children to educators; it means small group size; it means a good learning curriculum, it means a safe and stimulating facility where children are encouraged to participate and interact.
Therefore, we are launching today the design standards for crèches, so that those charged with preparing or building a crèche know what is best for children.
This is one of standards related to early childhood development that UNICEF has been helping to bring about. I like to thank all those who contributed to this. I also thank those who will apply what the experts have written.
UNICEF will continue to support other related materials, such as how to budget for crèches and kindergartens, how to create programmes that help parents to better understand the needs of young children; and on the curriculum for children 0-3 years of age, for crèches.