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Neuroscience has fundamentally changed the way we understand ECD. These changes entail a new appreciation of:

  • Early childhood as a critically formative period of brain development.
  • The extent to which early social conditions, especially social adversity (poverty), become biologically embedded in the developing brain with profound lifelong consequences for individuals and society alike.

In order to enhance positive and limit negative social impacts, it is imperative to proactively manage the pathways and processes whereby this new scientific knowledge translates into the social domain. This applies equally to policy-making, program design, service delivery and public discourse. The Innovation Edge has therefore initiated a project to channel the latest scientific research into national efforts to Reframe Early Learning.

As a first step we commissioned a neuroscientist, Dr Barak Morgan, to draft a short scientific brief which:

  • Outlines the basic neuroscience of biological (epigenetic) embedding of early social adversity and its corollary on young children’s developing brains
  • Outlines strategic implications for ECD interventions
  • Identifies between 5 and 10 key messages that should frame our ECD practices and inform our communication campaign
  • Informs the work of the Innovation Edge and Ilifa in terms of policy-making, program design, service delivery and public discourse.

The text below is an extract from the paper, entitled “Developmental neuroscience research Translation: a scientific (and political) brief”.

We now know enough about how the social and biological realms interact to know that the brains we choose (regulate for) are the brains we will get. For this reason (and for other reasons beyond the present scope) this change constitutes a scientific revolution of historic proportions, the likes of which happens only once every few hundred years. It is of fundamental importance to recognise, think and act in accordance with this historic scale of change. The task and challenge ahead is quite clear  -  to use neuroscience to leverage fundamental social change”.

The intention is to draw on this paper to inform a strategy to reframe early learning in South Africa – targeting policy makers, practitioners and parents. While we are still in the early stages of this project, we have had initial talks with and are ‘connecting’ a number of people who collectively bring a unique set of skills which we believe will enable us “to use neuroscience to leverage fundamental social change”.