Early Childhood Education – Is it a blessing or just hype?

July 08, 2020

It is worthwhile exploring an answer to this question because either way, the stakes are high. If it is beneficial for the development of a child, parents can not afford to forego it, and more parents should enroll their child in early learning programs so as not to deprive them of these benefits. And if somehow, it turns out that the benefits of early education are not as substantial as claimed, then parents should explore other options that will provide the missing link in promoting the growth of their child.

Science of brain development

Let us begin with the science of brain development. Science has identified the period from birth to five years as that of rapid growth where more than 1 million neural connections are formed in the brain every second. Between 70 to 80% of human brain development occurs by the age of five. It is also the period when the roots of cognitive, social, and emotional abilities -language, critical thinking, problem-solving, self-regulation, and communication sprout and take hold. These are known to be indicators of robust academic performance over time.
If so, one would expect ECE programs to focus on developing abilities that have a direct impact on school-readiness and longer-term educational outcomes, as well as empirical evidence to prove that co-relation.

 Road to academic success

It seems research over many decades has, indeed, documented that high-quality, developmentally-appropriate early childhood programs have positive effects on cognitive and socio-emotional development – fostering emotional security, thinking ability, and language skills in children.

Previous research also indicates that developmentally-appropriate programs lead to greater success in the early grades, and long term studies have confirmed that success or failure in the foundation years is a good predictor of the child’s performance in later years.

 Return on investment

A more recent study in the U.S. compared the long-term effects of not enrolling a child in an ECE program to attending classroom-based ECE programs. It again establishes that participation in classroom-based ECE leads to statistically significant reductions in the need for special education or grade retention while increasing high school graduation rates. This study proves beyond an iota of doubt that not only does ECE promote the well-being of a child in the short-term, but it also augurs well for their long-term educational attainment.

A model in the U.S. has even quantified the social benefits of ECE, suggesting a five-fold return on the investments made in the early education of children. Intuitively, it makes sense that on the one hand, ECE reduces educational spending on special education or repeating a grade, on the other, it enhances the salary potential of the individual and tax-collection of the government as more children graduate.

So there is sufficient research-based empirical evidence to establish that early childhood education is fundamental to the optimal growth of the child.

The role of parents

It also brings to fore the role played by parents in selecting a quality ECE program for their child. From the prior discussion, it is clear that it is not enough for children to learn A, B & C or count to 10 in ECE settings. They need stimulating and enriching early experiences that are essential for developing higher-order mental functions. Once equipped with these skills, children will be in a position to realize their true potential.

So the onus is on parents to research and find a quality ECE program that offers developmentally-appropriate learning for their child.

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