Nobel Laureate gives compelling reasons for sending your infant to pre-school

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According to the Nobel Laureate, infants who were enrolled in high-quality early childhood development programmes were more likely to complete their high school education, less likely to commit crime, would have better hygiene and would have higher IQs than their counterparts

Are there any benefit of expanding early childhood education to cover infants?  Economist and Noble Laureate, Mr James Heckman thinks there are plenty!

According to the Nobel Laureate, infants who were enrolled in high quality early childhood development programmes were more likely to complete their high school education, less likely to commit crime, would have better hygiene and would have higher IQs than their counterparts that either did not take part in such programmes or were enrolled in low quality programmes. These programmes would include pre-schools and day care centres.

These programmes would require substantial investment, but the social impact would be greater. Calculating the rate of return for these programs, Heckman concludes that the returns could be 600%! These findings are based on two studies that look at the outcome of both high-quality care and moderate to low quality care programmes on the lives of 200 children. They were studied for 35 years, and the conclusions were drawn.

In the USA, the children from lower income families often do not have an access to high quality care. They are raised by either family or sent to a place where the quality of care is low. This quality of care impacts boys more than girls of that age group.

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According to Heckman, self-control is a skill that is not easily mastered by young boys. Girls on the other hand are better at restraint. And that is the reason why children, especially boys, need a high quality if care for their own good.

The views are divided on this issue

There is a considerable amount of scepticism about the programs. Some experts suggest that the study design is not proper to draw any conclusions. David Armor, the professor emeritus of public policy at George Mason University feels that the benefits of early start are lost after a few years as the 'unexposed' tend to catch up.
How is this even relevant to us? Read on to find out.

How is it relevant to us?

All said and done, this is an issue of policy, something for the governments to worry about. For parents like you and me, what matters is the real message: giving our children an access to high quality developmental programmes.

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The benefits are as follows

  1. Early start is good. With an early start, the child would learn the basics as well as soft skills, especially self-restraint. This will go a long way in developing the instincts of the child.
  2. The outcomes are worth the expense. For many of us, it could be a stretch to enrol the child in a good day care facility. However, what seems like a stretch now will pay itself when the child gets routine health checkups and ends up developing hygienic habits.
  3. It will free your time. For many single parents, a good quality daycare ensures that you can resume work early. This also frees up time for development of your skills. This could be beneficial for your work in the long run.
  4.  The behaviour improves. According to this report, the children who receive consistent high quality of care early in life tend to be better behaved than their peers. They are less likely to pick up the parental anxieties and this improves the overall well being, as well as the academic performance of the child in the long run.

Beyond the policy

The study in under peer-review. However, this reiterates our beliefs that an access to a good quality development programmes like day care and enrichment centres do have a lasting impact on the lives of children.

Sources: Washington post, Reuters, Heckmanequation.org

Also read: Children who go to daycare are more skilled than kids who stay at home

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Written by

Anay Bhalerao