Thursday, September 22, 2016

The US is failing to invest enough in early childhood education, one of the most critical periods in children's development says the OECD — Quartz

The US is failing to invest enough in early childhood education, one of the most critical periods in children's development says the OECD — Quartz:

The US is failing to invest enough in one of the most critical periods in children’s education


 Considerable research shows that well-designed early childhood programs can help children, particularly those who are disadvantaged, build social, emotional and academic skills that can help them as students and in life.

The US seems to have missed that memo.

In 2014, it had one of the lowest enrollment rates for children in early childhood and pre-primary programs among the world’s richest 35 countries. Only three do worse than the US at offering programs for kids aged three and four: Turkey, Switzerland and Greece. In the US only 42% of three-year olds and 68% of four-year olds were enrolled; among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation the average is is 71% and 86%, respectively.

“We value our children less than other nations do,” Arne Duncan, the former U.S. secretary of education told the Hechinger report, which recently published a five-part series on public preschools. “I don’t have an easier or softer or kinder way to say that.”

Why it matters

The first few years of a child’s life are critical for building their adult success. “Serve and return,” the process by which adults engage with babies by making eye contact, smiling, talking and teaching them provide the basis for building communication and healthy relationships. Reading to kids, singing to them and having conversations builds literacy and language. Play helps kids socialize, develop motor skills and learn to be part of a group; dressing up and making up silly games engages kids’ impressive imaginations. Even learning to put on a coat–through methods like “flip, flop, over the top” teach kids independence and agency.

Home is the first, and most important place to help kids learn and grow. But most parents work, making affordable childcare solutions critical, especially for poorer families where stress levels can be high and access to early childhood programs (pdf) to help mitigate the dangerous effects of that stress is notoriously low.

It’s possible

Britain figured this out in 2004, when parliament reviewed the research on the benefits of early childhood programs. When UK researcherspresented data that tracked 3,000 children from the mid-1990s through 2008, “only one conclusion could be drawn” the Hechinger report wrote: “The government should pay for preschool for all three-year-olds.”
The government now pays for any child in England who has turned three by Sept. 1 to have 15 hours a week of free child-care or preschool for 38 weeks a year, or 570 hours total. Children start school at age four, in what the UK calls reception, which is like pre-kindergarten. In other words, all four-year-olds have state-funded schooling. In 2014, 84% of three-year-olds were enrolled in an early childhood program and 99% of four-year olds were in reception.

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