Let me start off by making one thing clear. Young children deserve a high quality early education because it is our responsibility as adults to care for them and give them what they need. It’s a matter of moral responsibility. Children need quality experiences to be whole and healthy and to meet the outer limits of their grand potentials, both as children and as adults. That said, there have been a series of interesting articles recently, coming from unlikely sources. It’s not NAEYC or Zero to Three issuing these papers, it’s economists and business leaders.
These writers are getting attention for pointing out the overall return on investments into early education. It’s all broken down by dollars and economic growth. That may not be my first motivator, but I figure you have to find whatever common ground will get people involved in advocating for children. If someone needs to see dollar signs and numbers to help them realize that the early years are not just cute, there are definitely dollar signs and numbers to be found.
In general, the research points out that, *gasp* children who receive high quality early education are more likely to be productive members of society over a lifetime. One study found the investment to be worth more than 10-fold over a lifetime! For every dollar spent in the early years, there’s a $10 return. This rate of return appears to steadily decline over a person’s lifetime. So, money put into high school programs have a much smaller rate of return. It all goes back to the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Additionally, I found it interesting that many statements in the articles point to the fact that the benefits of preschool are not just academic. In fact, many of the cognitive benefits even out over time. As found in the Perry Preschool Experiment and the report from the Society for Human Resource Management (links below), the benefits of preschool are largely about social skills: team building, self-control, and motivation.
I found these articles extremely interesting (particularly the one about the $320,ooo kindergarten teacher — you just might find me back at the nearest elementary school when that one comes to fruition). If you’re looking for some weekend reading, check these out! Then think about what you can do to advocate for children— whether that’s in your own home, your own school, your community, or the world.
“Meeting the Workforce Needs of the Future…Means Meeting the Developmental Needs of Young Children Today” – Society for Human Resource Management
“The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers” – The New York Times
“How Preschool Changes the Brain” – Wired
Top photo by Anissa Thompson.
The research and knowledge on the long term [social] benefits of early years education has been around for a long, long time. I think that Sesame Street was an initiative based on that understanding. It is good to see then, that it is starting to filter out well beyond the education arena. Thanks for your post 🙂
It’s so true. You could argue the benefits of quality early education on so many grounds, and the proofs been around a while. It’s interesting to see what recirculates based on the mood of the times. I’m guessing with the tough economic climate and the tighter resources for funding, early education advocates are making a bigger push to get these benefits out there. And to deliver it in the language that will be most receptive. It’s fun to see people catch on!
Abby @ abby & her boys says
Speaking of Sesame Street, have either of you read Freakonomics? There is a very interesting chapter on early education, and how shows like Sesame Street broke ground, but that Blue’s Clues took everything a step further.
Abby @ abby & her boys says
My oldest starts Kindergarten in the fall, and because we are not in a great school district, we were considering sending him to a very expensive (for our area) private classical academy. My banker husband actually said, “I just don’t think we’ll get a return on investment. It’s just Kindergarten, how different could it be?” I of course e-mailed him this post. 😉
This is fascinating. I loved the article about the $320,000 teacher. So true.
Thanks for the education!
I’m glad the timing was right for you, Abby! So funny that the exact same terms were used. As I said, sometimes you just have to use the right terms to get people to pay attention! I’m glad you found them useful and interesting!