|© UNICEF Chile/2008|
|From left: Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Vice President of the National Pre-school Board Estela Ortiz and UNICEF Regional Director Nils Kastberg at the opening session of ‘The Impact of Pre-school Education’ seminar.|
SANTIAGO, Chile, 6 November 2008 – President of Chile Michelle Bachelet chaired the opening session of the international seminar ‘The Impact of Preschool Education’ yesterday. The event was organized by the Government of Chile and UNICEF.
Together with UNICEF Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean Nils Kastberg, Ms. Bachelet reiterated the importance of investing in early childhood education for the development of both individuals and society. Pre-school education in Chile has been a priority of the Bachelet administration.
The three-day seminar gathers together internationally recognized experts on education and economic sciences to discuss issues affecting early childhood development.
Ministers of Finance, Education, Housing and Planning from Chile will also participate, reaffirming the government’s commitment to making pre-school education a state policy.
Investing in early education
During the opening session, Ms. Bachelet stressed the need to create awareness about the importance of investing in education and development from an early age, in order to provide equal opportunities to all children.
Mr. Kastberg emphasized that only recently it has been recognized that investing in children's education ensures lasting changes and a more complete realization of children’s rights.
“To adopt the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the framework of public policies implies a substantial change in the way we approach children, since we move from a vision based on needs to one based on rights,” he said.
Commitment from leaders
Mr. Kastberg added that unacceptable disparities still exist in terms of access and attention to high-quality early childhood interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean. He highlighted the exclusion of many indigenous and Afro-descendent children, as well as the disabled and those who come from poor families.
The seminar in Chile was an appropriate framework to reiterate the commitment from the Heads of State who participated in the Iberoamerican Summit held a few days earlier in San Salvador, Mr. Kastberg noted. The leaders there reached an agreement to “strengthen educational and cultural policies, to ensure the right to a quality education from early childhood, universal coverage and free primary and secondary education.”
Emphasizing that UNICEF is committed to forwarding this objective, Mr. Kastberg said that the right to an education is one of Chile’s “main products for export.”