Israel conference stresses need for parent support

Published December 6, 2017

BvLF’s Israel representative, Daniella Ben-Attar, spoke last week at the Taub Center’s Herbert M Singer Annual Policy Conference of 2017 on educational inequality. The Taub Centre is a leading policy think tank in Israel; the conference was well covered in the press and is expected to spark public debate and policy roundtables. The keynote speech by Nobel Prize winning author James Heckman (pictured with Daniella) was particularly significant in raising the early childhood agenda in the country’s policy circles.

Professor Heckman emphasised the need to start earlier than preschool to address educational inequality, beginning in pregnancy. He stressed the importance of parenting and the high return-on-investment of interventions to support parents. He also stressed that it is not only developing a child’s IQ that policymakers should be interested in, but their soft skills and competencies – which tend to develop at a very young age, and usually within in family settings.

Daniella followed up by stressing the need to look at early childhood in Israel from a different viewpoint, broadening the focus from childcare to the family and community. Policy recommendations included increasing government investment in parent support, alongside childcare and health; looking for ways to reach parents through existing service platforms, such as well baby clinics, which have untapped potential to reach parents from low socio-economic groups in particular; and improving coordination at the municipal level on policy and programmes for young children and their families. Daniella’s presentation is available here.

The Foundation is supporting the Taub Center to conduct a literature review on how financial hardship and poverty in early childhood influence cognitive development and future educational achievements, and the connection to the levels of stress and types of sensory stimuli to which children are exposed in their early years. The aim is to develop new policy solutions that can have a significant impact on the 30% of children living in poverty in Israel.