Research tells us that the first three years of a child’s life are the most critical years. 80% of the developing brain is formed during this brief window in time. We also know from the research that investing in early childhood development for disadvantaged children is perhaps the very best way society can boost shared prosperity, promote inclusive economic growth, expand equitable opportunity and end extreme poverty. There is no smarter human resource investment—an ROI of as much as 13%! Yet nearly 250 million of our world’s children under five will never reach their developmental potential. Sadly, the children of Hong Kong are no exception.
Despite its real estate boom and apparent prosperity, the yawning gap between rich and poor in Hong Kong is wider than ever and shows no signs of diminishing. One in five children live in poverty. One in ten lives with a single parent. Families of Hong Kong’s most vulnerable children include the unemployed, single parent households, new arrivals, ethnic minorities, and teenage mothers. New arrivals, in particular, have a poverty rate of 30.1% compared to the overall average of 14.7%. Many cannot speak the local language. Without intervention well before they enter mainstream schools, such at-risk children have little chance of ever realising their potential.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The new OSGC will be both a training hub for carers, parents, and early childhood practitioners, and a replicable, inclusive model Early Learning Centre, providing direct benefit to Hong Kong’s marginalized youngest learners, ages 0-6—first in Sham Shui Po, and eventually, via mobile or satellite centres developed with NGO partners, wherever the need is great.