The federal government’s role in children’s education is controversial. Many say it’s the province of the states and localities. Others argue it is the federal government’s job to provide a high-quality education. Yet, decades of research have shown that quality programs increase children’s school performance and later success. It may cost $30 billion per year to provide a high-quality two-year program for all children. The debate isn’t over.
Children’s education programs offer a nurturing and stimulating environment under the supervision of responsible adults. They provide nutritious meals and snacks and help children build a foundation in literacy, mathematics, and language development. Teachers follow a lesson plan and check on children’s progress frequently. Some programs use a combination of methods to ensure that children learn and achieve. In some cases, children can learn in two different settings at the same time. However, for the most part, teachers work from a single plan, and children are placed in small groups.
In recent years, the number of children enrolled in preschool programs has increased. This trend isn’t limited to the U.S.; middle-class and affluent families have been enrolling their children in these programs at record numbers. Today, there are twice as many three and four-year-olds in such programs as children from poor families. While the early education programs were originally intended for poor children, the rise of middle-class and affluent families has made the programs a popular option for educating children in low-income areas.
Poor countries face a number of challenges when it comes to funding education. In many cases, governments lack the resources and political will to provide a high-quality education to all citizens. In some places, parents organize and pay for their children’s education. The burden of paying for a child’s education is disproportionately higher for poor households. However, paying for an education is better than no education at all.
A high-quality preschool teacher focuses on children’s development across the curriculum. They plan projects and themes that allow children to develop their skills, knowledge, and understanding of a subject. By integrating all the different content areas, children develop a more complete understanding of the subject. For example, children making a bird feeder will use math, language, science, and reading to learn about different kinds of seed. As a result, children will be better prepared for kindergarten.
The government should focus on the most vulnerable children in society. These children often lack the opportunity to go to school because they have to work to help with household chores and supplement the household income. In addition, children may have to care for sick family members. In countries with AIDS, children may be forced to stay out of school in order to help their orphaned siblings. These costs can make even free schooling unaffordable for some families.
Research shows that children’s noncognitive skills are equally important as those developed in the classroom. Though this area is still relatively understudied, there is a growing body of literature that illustrates how important noncognitive skills are to the development of academic skills. These skills are often called social and emotional skills. The development of these skills should be a top priority in public education.
A recent World Bank report concluded that early childhood development programs are the most effective way to prepare children for future labor markets. For that reason, early learning opportunities are crucial for children of all socioeconomic status. Despite the importance of noncognitive skills, the study found that children in low-income families do not own even a single book. A high-quality early childhood education program can help every child achieve their educational goals. And it could help improve the quality of life for all.
The global economic recession has led to a wide range of negative consequences for children. Children of poor families are more likely to have premature births. They are also at risk for early marriages and child labor. Further, low-income families are more likely to have fewer opportunities to engage in meaningful social and emotional activities.
Children’s education is a fundamental human right. It is a powerful driver of economic development and is crucial for gender equality. Education also promotes economic growth, improves health and reduces poverty. It also improves peace and stability.