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Early Childhood Education – What’s it Really Worth?

Image courtesy of arztsamui /
Image courtesy of arztsamui /

Education in this day and age is expensive. If you want your child to go to a good school, it costs even more – so much so that I often hear parents asking if it is worth it to pay so much for their child’s preschool and whether it would be better to save the money for a better school in the later years.

Funnily, I’ve always believed that if it came down to a question of finance (and time – if your child has to be taken care of by someone else because both parents work), I would opt for a better educational program in the earlier years rather than later simply because the early years have always seemed so much more important to me after learning about the importance of the first 2000 days of a child’s life. Interestingly, a couple of study called the Abecedarian Project would agree.

“The Abecedarian Project demonstrated that young children who receive high-quality early education from infancy to age five do better in school academically, and are more likely to stay in school longer and graduate.”

“[The Highscope Perry Preschool Study] showed that by age 40, those enrolled at age three or four in this high-quality early learning program were more likely to have high school diplomas, jobs and higher earnings than their peers. The study also found that participants committed fewer crimes than those who never enrolled in the program.” – Educare

What is the Abecedarian Project?

The Abecedarian project was a carefully controlled scientific study of the potential benefits of early childhood education for poor children. Four cohorts of individuals, born between 1972 and 1977, were randomly assigned as infants to either the early educational intervention group or the control group.

Project Details:

  • Children from low-income families received full-time, high-quality educational intervention in a childcare setting from infancy through age 5.
  • Each child had an individualized prescription of educational activities.
  • Educational activities consisted of “games” incorporated into the child’s day.
  • Activities focused on social, emotional, and cognitive areas of development but gave particular emphasis to language.
  • Children’s progress was monitored over time with follow-up studies conducted at ages 12, 15, and 21.
  • The young adult findings demonstrate that important, long-lasting benefits were associated with the early childhood program.

The study followed children from the program and compared them against a control group that only received nutritional supplements, social services, and health care.

Study Findings:

  • Children who participated in the early intervention program had higher cognitive test scores from the toddler years to age 21.
  • Academic achievement in both reading and math was higher from the primary grades through young adulthood.
  • Intervention children completed more years of education and were more likely to attend a four-year college.
  • Intervention children were older, on average, when their first child was born.
  • The cognitive and academic benefits from this program are stronger than for most other early childhood programs.
  • Enhanced language development appears to have been instrumental in raising cognitive test scores.
  • Mothers whose children participated in the program achieved higher educational and employment status than mothers whose children were not in the program. These results were especially pronounced for teen mothers.

More details about the study and program here:

What is the Highscope Perry Preschool Program?

The Highscope Perry Preschool Program was a study following 123 high-risk three- and four-year-olds in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Nearly 60 children were randomly assigned to a high-quality early care and education program; the rest received no preschool. All were tracked until age 40.

Study Findings:

  • Incidence of crime. Only 7% of adults who had participated in the Perry Preschool program had been arrested five or more times, compared with 35% of those who had not participated in a preschool program. Of those in the preschool program group, 7% had ever been arrested for drug-related offenses, compared to 25% of those in the no-program group.
  • Earnings and economic status. Adults in the program group were four times more likely (29%) to earn $2,000 or more per month than were adults in the no-program group (7%). Almost three times as many (36%) owned their own homes, compared to those in the no-program group (13%). More than two times as many (program 30%, no program 13%) owned a second car. As adults, 59% of those in the program group had received welfare assistance or other social services at some time, compared to 80% of those in the no-program group.
  • Educational attainment. Seventy-one percent of those in the program group graduated from regular or adult high schools or received General Education Development certification, compared with 54% of those in the no-program group. Earlier in the study, the preschool program group had significantly higher average achievement scores at age 14 and literacy scores at age 19.
  • Marriage and single parenthood. Forty percent of women in the program group were married at the time of the age-27 interview, compared to 8% of those in the no-program group; and 57% of women in the program group were single parents, compared to 83% of those in the no-program group.

More details about the study and program here:

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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