Importance of Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education, defined as birth to kindergarten, has been shown to have many benefits for children, their families, and society at large. Much of a child’s cognitive development takes place before he or she enters kindergarten. Quality preschool education provides children with experiences that develop their social-emotional, pre-literacy, pre-writing, and pre-math skills, critical to school readiness.
An increasing number of studies reveal disparities between children who have had high quality preschool experiences and those who did not. These gaps often persist throughout a child’s K-12 experience, leading to higher drop-out rates, unemployment or under-employment (Heckman, 2008). Access to preschools programs is often a function of family income. A well-known 1995 research study concluded that children from poor families learned approximately 30 million fewer words by age three than children from higher-income homes. The language deficit was traced to fewer verbal interactions with their parents (Hart, B. H. and T.R, Risley, 2003). This often-cited study points to the need for early interventions that “directly address the developmental inequality in young minds” (Slyter, 2019). A more recent follow-up study conducted by Stanford University researcher Anne Fernald showed that 18-month-old children could identify simple words they knew much faster than children from low-income families (Rich, 2013). Enhanced language development appears to raise cognitive test scores, which continues from toddler years to age 21 (National Education Association, n.d.).
The benefits of early childhood education programs for all children are well-established in the research. Children who participate in quality preschool experiences enter kindergarten with improved social skills and higher achievement in reading and mathematics. Long-term effects include a greater likelihood of graduating from high school and an expectation of increased life-time earnings (National Education Association, n.d.)
Colker, L. J. (2014). “The Word Gap: The Early Years Make the Difference.” National Association for the Education of Young Children. February/March 2014. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/tyc/feb2014/the-word-gap
Hackman, J.J. (2008). “NBER Working Paper No. 14064.” June 2008. Retrieved from https://www.nber.org/papers/w14064
Hart, B. H. and T.R, Risley. (2003). “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.” American Educator, Spring 2003. Retrieved from https://www.aft.org/sites/efault/files/periodicals/TheEarlyCatastrophe.pdf
National Education Association. “Early Education Benefits Individuals, Society.” Retrieved from ww.nea.org/home/18167.htm
Rich, M. (2013, October 21). Language-Gap Student Bolsters a Push for Pre-K. New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/us/language-gap-study-bolsters-a-push-for-pre-k.html?referringSource=articleShare
Slyter, K. (2019, July 29). “5 Reasons Why the Importance of ECE Is Impossible to Ignore.”