In advance of the public sessions of the World Economic Forum on Latin America starting on the 17th April Alberto Pfeifer, the Executive Coordinator of the Business Council of Latin America (CEAL), discusses the importance of transformation of early childhood education in the region.

If there is one common issue addressed by all heads of state and government who have delivered speeches so far at the Business Summit of the Americas, it is education. From Mexico to Jamaica, from Chile to Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia and Costa Rica, all stressed education as the key issue to sort out social maladies and foster prosperity.

Business leaders don’t fall short either. They converge on the merits of education and support all and any policies and initiatives to increase education’s reach and quality. Shakira took the stage and – no surprise – made the cause for education. It’s great to see a consensus on education gaining strength across governments and businesses. It’s noteworthy, though, that there is still a lack of any tangible solutions.

What’s new this time is that, finally, we see that the most important education is early childhood’s.

We are finally seeing widespread recognition that the most important education is early in a child’s life. If you don’t do the right things with children up to four, anything you do later on will be either ineffective or more expensive – or both. But we are still lacking a practical “how to”: no country has yet developed a fully comprehensive and affordable national programme to tackle the needs of “Early Childhood Education” (ECE).

At the World Economic Forum on Latin America this week, I expect to see the issue of how to provide universal attention to children up to four being assessed in a concrete, yet creative, fashion. If not at a meeting under the title “Regional Transformation in a New Global Context”, where else could we discuss the fundamental transformation needed for the next generation of Latin Americans and the region. An Action Plan drafted in Puerto Vallarta on this issue would be an outstanding and timely contribution to this debate.

Author: Alberto Pfeifer is the Executive Coordinator of the Business Council of Latin America (CEAL) in Brazil.

Pictured: Students attend a class in school in Pachacutec in northern Lima March 1, 2012. More than a million students returned to school on Wednesday for the new academic year. REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil