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GEORGE TOWN, June 11 (Bernama) -- The first five years of a child''s life

often called the formative years, are absolutely critical for the development,

performance and success of the child throughout his life, said Datin Seri Rosmah


The Prime Minister''s wife said the importance of early childhood development

had been acknowledged by economists, behavior scientists, educators,

neuroscientists and biologists.

"The formative period was said to be the best window of opportunity that we

must seize or we will forever lose the vast human potential that exists in these

children," she said in her speech at the opening of the International Conference

on Early Childhood and Special Education (ICECSE), here today.

She said recent neuroscience research shows that development of the brain

over the first five years is more rapid, intensive and vulnerable to external

influences or the environment.

"With the proper environmental stimulation, the child''s cognitive

development can be developed early. For example, 80 per cent of the child''s

intelligence at age 18 has been developed by the age of six," she said.



Rosmah said from economic perspective, early childhood education and

development was the foundation of quality human capital.

"Early childhood education is also said to have a snowballing effect in

increasing the preparedness of a child to study," she said.

Thus, Rosmah said, to promote early childhood education, Early Childhood

Education and Care (ECEC) was initiated under the banner of Permata Negara.

She said the Permata Pintar, Permata Seni and Permata Insan were launched to

complement the ECEC programme.

"I am pleased to announce that the Permata Pintar children have been doing

the country proud," she said.

Rosmah said they won gold and bronze medals at the third APEC Future

Scientist Conference in Taipeh this year, one was selected to enter the Genius

Olympiad competition in New York and another student had received a scholorship

to join a course on theory of numbers at Johns Hopkins University next week.

"Just yesterday we were informed that the Permata Programme is shotlisted

for best global education which will be announced at a summit to be held in New

Delhi," she said.

She said within a span of four years, 600 Permata centres had been

established throughout the country involving more than 20,000 children.



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