Early childhood development training program helps Brazilian leaders create action plans

Group photo of participants, faculty, and staff of the Executive Leadership Program in early childhood development
Participants, faculty, and staff of the Executive Leadership Program in early childhood development

September 13, 2023 — A diverse group of 42 leaders from across Brazil came together at Harvard this summer to learn about the latest science in early childhood development and to create plans for interventions they can implement locally. They were there for the first module in the four-month Executive Leadership Program in early childhood development, offered through Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Global Health and Population (GHP).

Participants—who included local government officials, heads of nongovernmental organizations, members of the federal government’s legislative, executive, and judiciary branches, and first ladies from several Brazilian states—attended classroom sessions at Harvard for a week in August. Lectures and case studies covered what works to foster early childhood development in the home, school, and society, and the ways in which programs can better serve young children and their families. Throughout, participants worked with peers and mentors to identify topics for action plans for early childhood interventions.

The goal of the plans is to improve access, equity, quality, and demand for early childhood services in Brazil. A few of the plans include: providing training for workers in the government-run health care and social assistance programs, creating a dashboard on daycare center vacancies, and developing quality parameters for evaluating early childhood education.

Following their week at Harvard, participants went home to begin work on developing full proposals for their plans. They’ll have regular check-ins with their mentors and peers to discuss progress and troubleshoot problems. At the end of November, they’ll reconvene in São Paulo, Brazil, to present about their final plans and share lessons learned.

This is the 10th offering of the Executive Leadership Program in early childhood development, which is run in conjunction with the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard, the Maria Cecília Souto Vidigal Foundation, the Bernard Van Leer Foundation, the Porticus Foundation, and the Insper Institute of Education and Research in São Paulo. It is the first year that GHP was involved in running the program.

This year’s participants are remarkable, said Marcia Castro, Andelot Professor of Demography and GHP chair at Harvard Chan School and chair of the Brazil Studies Program at the Rockefeller Center. “There was representation from Congress, several ministries, civil society, academia, social movement leaders, and policymakers. Different realities, cultures, experiences, and struggles were heard and worked together,” she said. “Based on the energy and commitment during the week of work at Harvard, I am confident that their plans of action will be transformative.”

Amy Roeder

Photo: Kent Dayton