Early Childhood Education –Pre-K Program Benefits and Issues
Early childhood education in the form of pre-kindergarten or pre-k programs are designed to ensure school readiness and future academic success in young learners. In a typical pre-k program, children learn core academic skills in math, science and literacy. They are exposed to activities which boost confidence and promote development, social and emotional well-being, creative thinking, curious investigation and complex problem solving.
A high-quality pre-kindergarten program is said to give kids a competitive advantage in K-12 and foster a love of learning. Set up to stimulate young minds, early childhood classrooms feature creative learning centers and inviting play areas. Preschool teachers encourage children to ask questions, discover answers and thereby develop critical thinking skills and learning habits which form the basis for future learning.
Pre-Kindergarten: The Debate
The current controversy regarding preschool asks the question: Should pre-k programs be reserved for disadvantaged children and low-income families or target high-income families who can afford private education? The debates non-withstanding, the benefits of pre-k learning are well documented, leading early childhood experts, educators and policymakers to call for pre-k funding for all children.
Benefits of Pre-K Programs
Extensive research shows that starting school early increases students’ chances of succeeding in school and in life. Most brain development occurs prior to the age of 5 and early learning experiences thus prepare the brain for future learning success. According to the national Childhood Longitudinal Study, the Chicago Longitudinal Study, studies carried out the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the International Reading Association, the Center for Public Education, the National Council for the Teachers of Mathematics, and publications such as Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children and Eager to Learn, benefits of pre-k programs include:
- Help close the gap between low-income/minority students and their non-minority counterparts
- Provide children with the foundation for number and letter recognition, formal reading, and problem-solving before they enter kindergarten
- Develop important skills for school such as peer interaction and paying attention
- Help children do better on standardized tests and perform at proficient levels in keeping with No Child Left Behind
- Improve efficiency and productivity in the classroom
Pre-K Program Long-Term Effects
Longitudinal studies indicate that pre-k programs produce lasting benefits, including the following positive long-term effects:
- Children who attend quality pre-k programs are less likely to need special education or repeat a grade
- Children who attend quality pre-k programs are more likely to graduate from high school, be employed, and earn higher wages
- Children who attend quality pre-k programs are less likely to become dependent on welfare, become teenage parents, or be involved with law enforcement
- Pre-k programs provide cost savings to taxpayers and local/state/federal governments by reducing the need for remedial and special education, welfare services and criminal justice services
Pre-K Funding for All Children
By providing pre-k funding for children across the board, states can enhance early learning and development, increase standards and have a long-term impact upon children’s well-being. Many states have already begun to issue policy statements and develop formal standards for pre-k education. In turn, preschool teachers are encouraged to create a fun, inviting environment which is both supportive and challenging. Early childhood classrooms filled with learning resources and stimulating play areas provide children with rich opportunities for intellectual, emotional and social growth and with a solid foundation for future academic success.