History and Success of Early Childhood Education in the U.S.
While the focus on early childhood education in the U.S. has proven important to the development of countless numbers of students, the emphasis has not always been present in our education system.
The movement grew from psychology discoveries that determined the most important years in a child’s development are from birth to about age 5 or 6. However, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Early Childhood Education Care and Education Unit defines early childhood as birth to 8 years old.
Tracking the exact rise of early childhood education in this country is tricky, as states adopt different programs at different times. However, these kind of programs seemed to rise in popularity primarily during the 1960s and 1970s and have continued with various levels of funding since then. The CDA certification was first developed in the early 1970s.
Study Links Success to Early Childhood Education
How well do the programs work? One study began tracking Chicago students in early childhood education in 1967: Researchers tracked nearly 1,000 of the nearly 100,000 children ages 3 to 4 that went through the programs for 14 years, plus 550 children with similar backgrounds that were not in the programs.
The study found that the students who were not in the programs were much more likely to commit violent crimes and be arrested by age 18, and child abuse and neglect also seemed to decrease in families who had children in the programs. However, the lowered instances of child abuse may not be directly connected – it could indicate that parents who are more likely to take their children to early childhood education programs are naturally less likely to abuse and neglect their families.
A similar study conducted in Michigan found that the students who did not go to preschool were five times more likely to become chronic lawbreakers by age 27 than those who were assigned to a specific preschool program in Ypsilanti.
SPICE of Childhood Development
There are five areas where students can benefit and grow when in an effective early childhood education program.
- Social and behavioral: Even with the home school movement growing, this is an aspect that parents who teach their children at home may miss. Learning to play well with others, share, form relationships and create lasting relationships with others outside of their family are all key.
- Physical: Motor skills are important and this is one of the areas that the activities in early childhood education help develop, as much of the teaching in these programs is learning through fun and games.
- Intellectual: Being able to process and make sense of the world before them is key, which is what this area covers.
- Communication: The “terrible twos” are so terrible because children are frustrated that they can’t communicate what they are thinking. Developing their ability to communicate with words and using other methods can reduce this stress on them.
- Emotional: Not only just learning to cope and understand feelings, children also learn self-awareness and confidence during the early stages of their development.
By focusing on these five aspects in early childhood education, children across the country have benefited from the efforts.