Is Early Education Worth It?
It is hard to argue with the fact that high-quality early education has many benefits.
In January 2014, President Obama told congress, "Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child's life is high-quality early education."
A team from Georgetown University found that Tulsa's investment in pre-k education resulted in impressive academic gains, which are evident now that its first graduates are beginning high school.
(Check out the article by Claudio Sanchez).
The real problem here is that 'high-quality' child care is difficult to find, and difficult to access for most Americans.
What does high-quality child care look like?
- highly-skilled staff,
- small class sizes and high adult-to-child ratios,
- a language-rich environment,
- age-appropriate curricula and
- stimulating materials in a safe physical setting,
- warm, responsive interactions between staff and children
Surely every child should have access to this type of care? The fact is, they don't.
There is a disparity between expectations of Early Childhood Educators and the resources provided to them to meet these expectations.
The current investment in child care is not enough to support early childhood educators in their jobs. As a result, they are vastly underpaid and under appreciated while their role in society is critical.
Why is this happening? There are a number of reasons. One that seems to pop up continuously is the cost. It's a huge investment.
Some people have also argued that a lot of the studies that show benefits have design flaws. Take a gander at this article from the Washington Post.
Regardless of cost and popular opinion, there is no denying the scientific fact that early childhood is the most rapid period of development.
Study after study proves that smart investments made in the early years can lead to profoundly better outcomes for our children, families and economy.
James J. Heckman (Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, a Nobel Memorial Prize winner in economics and an expert in the economics of human development) sums up the importance of early education nicely.
"Early interventions for disadvantaged children promote schooling, raise the quality of the workforce, enhance the productivity of schools and reduce crime, teenage pregnancy and welfare dependency. They raise earnings and promote social attachment. Focusing solely on earnings gains, returns to dollars invested are as high as 15-17%."
- Heckman, J. (2006). Investing in disadvantaged young children is an economically efficient policy.