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Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo
Región en Blanco y Negro

El desarrollo de la región depende de la inversión en nuestros niños

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El 27 de octubre, el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo presentará en Lima, Perú su nuevo libro insignia llamado Los primeros años: el bienestar infantil y el papel de las políticas públicas. Si estas en Perú, puedes registrarte aquí para asistir al evento; si no, sigue la presentación en vivo a través del siguiente enlace a partir de las 5:00pm hora local.

Te dejamos con el adelanto del prólogo, escrito por el Presidente del BID, Luis Alberto Moreno:

Pese al crecientemente complejo entorno económico al que se enfrentan los países de América Latina y el Caribe, sus gobiernos tienen una oportunidad única de invertir en uno de sus más preciados recursos: sus niños.

Hay aproximadamente 50 millones de niños menores de 5 años en nuestra región que, con el tiempo, constituirán el núcleo de nuestra fuerza laboral y de nuestro liderazgo político y social. Asegurarse de que esos niños tengan las mejores oportunidades de desarrollo es una cuestión de interés colectivo, ya que nuestro futuro depende de ellos.

En este libro analizamos qué pueden hacer los gobiernos para contribuir de la mejor forma posible a que nuestros niños se desarrollen adecuadamente en sus primeros años de vida. Nuestra investigación comparte el amplio consenso hoy existente sobre los efectos positivos que tienen esas políticas e intervenciones durante los primeros ocho años de vida, y cómo pueden contribuir a que esos niños, con el tiempo, no solo sean más productivos sino también mejores ciudadanos.

En los últimos tiempos, América Latina y el Caribe ha avanzado mucho en la mejora de las condiciones de vida de la infancia. Los niños y niñas de nuestra región hoy tienen menos probabilidades que hace solo unas décadas de morir en el parto o en sus primeros años de vida. Gozan de mejor salud y nutrición. Casi todos van a la escuela. Mientras que en el año 2000, dos de cada cinco niños vivían en la pobreza, en la actualidad esa cifra se ha reducido a uno de cada cinco. A lo largo de estos últimos 20 años, el BID ha ayudado a los países a lograr este progreso concediendo más de 150 ayudas y prestamos orientados al desarrollo de la primera infancia por algo más de US$1.700 millones.

Sin embargo, como se explica en estas páginas, los niños de América Latina y el Caribe siguen sufriendo retrasos en áreas críticas como el lenguaje y las capacidades cognoscitivas. El problema comienza en los primeros cinco años de vida porque muchos de esos niños no reciben la estimulación requerida para asegurar el desarrollo adecuado. Las pruebas muestran que los niños pobres conocen menos palabras que los más ricos, y que los niños de nuestra región conocen menos palabras que los de los países más desarrollados. La consecuencia de todo ello es que muchos —demasiados— niños y niñas de la región sencillamente no están preparados cuando comienzan la escuela.

En este libro se argumenta decididamente que este déficit no es solo responsabilidad de los padres. Los gobiernos pueden —y deben— marcar una diferencia importante y positiva. Según uno de los estudios, las relativamente simples interacciones entre padres y trabajadores sociales que desde hace décadas se han estado realizando en Jamaica han permitido que los niños lograran mejores resultados en los colegios y que al llegar a la adultez tuvieran salarios más altos y menores probabilidades de caer en la delincuencia.

La inversión del gobierno en un programa de primera infancia bien elaborado, utilizando instrumentos que ya conocemos y que son sumamente efectivos, puede tener un enorme impacto en el desarrollo. Los programas para el desarrollo de la primera infancia son las bases sobre las cuales hacer otras inversiones sociales exitosas a lo largo de la vida de un individuo, especialmente de los más pobres. Invertir más en este ámbito es una de las maneras más eficaces de los gobiernos para mejorar la movilidad social.

Numerosos gobiernos ya han aumentado las inversiones en mejorar los cuidados y la atención prestada a los niños en sus primeros años de vida. Sin embargo, los datos indican que la región todavía gasta muy poco. Por ejemplo, el gasto per cápita de los gobiernos es tres veces superior en niños de entre 6 y 11 años que entre los que tienen entre 0 y 5 años. Además, las inversiones en la primera infancia tienden a estar concentradas de manera desproporcionada en infraestructura física, por ejemplo: en las instalaciones de los jardines de cuidado infantil, y se invierte menos en la capacitación y en el capital humano de los que las atienden. Las más recientes investigaciones demuestran que los retornos más altos de las inversiones pueden provenir de programas modestos que se concentren en mejorar las primeras interacciones cruciales entre los niños y los adultos, ya sean padres, maestros o cuidadores.

Por otra parte, ningún actor por si solo puede pretender ser el único protagonista del desarrollo de las políticas de la primera infancia, lo que implica la necesidad de coordinar los múltiples actores y niveles de gobierno, un problema que, en la mayoría de los países de la región, se puede convertir en un obstáculo formidable para la mejora de la calidad de los servicios.

Por ello, el desafío consiste en asegurar que contemos con instituciones capaces de orientar las inversiones hacia programas que tengan un impacto medible en el desarrollo de la primera infancia. No es un camino fácil, pero es el camino correcto si nuestros países quieren aprovechar al máximo el potencial de sus ciudadanos.

¿Cómo invierte tu país en sus ciudadanos más jóvenes? Cuéntanos dejando un comentario en nuestro blog Primeros Pasos o mencionando @BIDgente en Twitter.


Esta columna fue originalmente publicada en el Blog Primeros Pasos del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo BID.

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