What is so Important About Early Childhood Education?

The advantages of early childhood education are often disputed. In California in 2006, a bill introduced by film director Rob Reiner attempted to pass a mandatory pre-school law that would be funded by the state. The bill did not pass, though many experts clearly feel that early childhood education has some benefits to the child. Opponents to the bill were those who either didn’t want to fund pre-schools with tax dollars, or stay at home parents, who felt that requiring pre-school infringed upon their rights to raise their children as they saw fit.

Studies with Head Start programs throughout the United States have shown some indisputable evidence that there are advantages to early childhood education. However, these statistics, it is argued, are often misused to show more advantage than actually exists. Early childhood education in Head Start programs showed that students entering kindergarten and first grade had higher IQ scores and fewer social/behavioral problems. Head Start kids were also more likely to pick up material quickly.

What most opponents of early childhood education are quick to point out is that Head Start kids may have an advantage for only the first two or three years of school. At about third or fourth grade, most students who have not had early childhood education have caught up academically and socially. So while a Head Start child may get a head start, he or she doesn’t always cross the finish line first. Other issues remain problematic, like the overwhelming poverty that usually qualifies children for Head Start.

Early childhood education is a general term that describes a diverse range of programs. Some refer to any type of daycare, as education. However, evidence overwhelmingly shows that early daycare may actually be a detriment rather than a benefit to young children. Longer stays at home with a single caregiver are argued to be more intellectually stimulating to young children. As well, the child who stays at home is more likely to benefit from breastfeeding for longer, which many say is of great advantage to the child.

Most experts agree that early childhood education works best in low pressure, social, and friendly environments. It is also more effective when preschool is only a small part of a four or five year old’s day. Preschool that bleeds into long hours at daycare may not carry the same benefit for children, because it means more time away from parents. Not all programs are equally beneficial, and can vary depending upon funding, teacher to child ratio, and teacher experience.

Some of the long-term benefits of early childhood education in quality preschools include: greater parental involvement, fewer referrals to special education or remedial services, higher grades, better social skills, and greater ability to focus. As well, some studies show that children attending pre-school are more likely to graduate and pursue higher education, and be well integrated socially as an adult. It is also said that children with an early childhood education are less likely to commit illegal acts, and tend to earn more money.

Most of these benefits were cited from research into Head Start schools conducted in the 1980s. This research also found that pre-schools may greatly benefit children with developmental or physical disabilities. Children from middle and upper class families are least likely to benefit from pre-schooling, though they are most likely to attend pre-school. Children who speak another language at home significantly benefit from early childhood education, as they are the most prepared to learn English when they are very young.

Deciding if a child attends preschool is an individual decision that some say should not be legislated. Children cared for by an inventive and intelligent caregiver are likely to exhibit many of the same traits as those attending preschool. They are also given more attention in small family settings. Yet, parents who commit to an “at home” education, need to commit to being creative and engaged in raising their children.

It is clear that early childhood education can have some great benefits for children. Yet the quality of the education must be assessed to see what kind of benefits it actually provides. If early childhood education is less effective for children who spend most of their time in daycare settings, perhaps the best model is finding strategies for allowing a parent to stay home with his or her child for at least the first two to three years, prior to seeking early childhood education. Also important is considering a child's individual personality. Individual differences in children mean that not all children will derive equal benefit from early childhood education.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...