3 Reasons to Offer Early Childhood Education
Is early childhood education worth your school’s time and investment? A chorus of research studies says “Yes!” Early learning programs set students on the path to academic success by developing the skills they’ll need to excel in school.
What is early childhood education?
Early childhood education (ECE) includes any formal or informal learning children experience between birth and kindergarten, such as preschool or daycare. During this time, children start to figure out how to interact with their peers, parents, and teachers.
Setting Children Up for Success
The impact of early childhood education reaches years into a child’s academic career. The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning did a longitudinal study on how early childhood education influenced their students’ school performance and future life choices. Those who participated in early childhood education programs not only were more likely to graduate high school and attend college but also have healthier family relationships, own a home, and earn higher incomes than those who didn’t attend early learning programs.
Several studies have found similar results.
A Journal of Research in Childhood Education study discovered students who attended The Opportunity Project (TOP) Early Learning Centers in Midwestern states scored higher on 4th grade math and reading tests, had higher school attendance rates, and had fewer discipline referrals.
In 2015, researchers from Chile saw children who participated in an ECE program before kindergarten performed better on math, reading and social science tests than those who didn’t.
Another Chilean study found ECE participants performed better in school than their peers all the way through 12th grade and were less likely to repeat a grade or drop out of school.
Why do ECE programs have long-lasting effects on academic achievement?
Nobel-prize-winning economist James Heckman explained in his paper Interpreting The Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation that “skills beget skills.” This means the skills children develop at an early age increase their ability to develop more advanced skills later in life.
Preschool programs don’t just prepare students for kindergarten; they prepare them for life.
Developing Soft Skills
According to Jessica Alvarado, the early childhood development program director at National University, ECE involves much more than teaching children basic academic skills.
“It’s a time when children learn critical social and emotional skills and a partnership is formed between the child, their parents and the teacher. When this is done successfully, it lays the groundwork for it to continue throughout the child’s education,” Alvarado said.
Through ECE, students learn essential social-emotional skills that empower them to participate in future learning opportunities. Dana McCoy, a researcher at Harvard School of Education, said these soft skills include regulating emotions and getting along with others.
Offering students early childhood education can also decrease the number of behavioral issues you have to deal with at school. The same researchers from the Journal of Research in Childhood Education study gave teachers questionnaires on student behavior and discovered that TOP Early Learning Centers graduates behaved better in school, had greater social skills, and showed more emotional maturity than their peers.
Think about all the money, time, labor, and resources your school spends because students have to repeat a grade or attend summer school to catch up with their peers. ECE reduces these costs by laying a solid educational foundation for children.
In his paper, The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, Heckman said that early learning can yield up to a 13% per year return on investment.
Steven Barnett’s study in 1998 did a cost-benefit analysis and found the economic return for providing early learning for children in poverty far exceeded the costs.
A meta-analysis on the benefits of ECE from the Harvard Graduate School of Education explained:
“Public funding for ECE has the potential to mitigate the high costs of special education and of dropouts and other poor educational outcomes. Investing in early childhood is a solution that creates upward mobility through opportunity. Instead of costly and marginally successful programs later in life, quality early childhood education helps prevent the achievement gap by building the cognitive and social skills necessary for school readiness.”
Studies Weekly Early Learning Curriculum
Because early childhood education greatly impacts students’ academic achievement, Studies Weekly offers an early learning curriculum that builds children’s reading and motor skills through fun, hands-on experiences.
See a digital sample at studiesweekly.com/earlylearning.