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What can the US learn from international early childhood education?

Oct 10, 2018 by

An examination of how six countries provide early care and education suggests that the U.S. could benefit from a new perspective

The project, published in September as a book called “The Early Advantage: Early Childhood Systems that Lead by Example,” takes a deep look at services for young children in Australia, England, Finland, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore. The work was led by Sharon Lynn Kagan, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College and Yale University. (The Hechinger Report is an independently funded unit of Teachers College.) The study was funded by the National Center on Education and the Economy, a think tank focused on the connection between education and economics.

Country Rankings
PISA High PISA Medium PISA Lower
Economist high Netherlands
Republic of Korea
Finland
Belgium
Denmark
New Zealand
Norway
UK-England
France
Economist medium Hong Kong
Switzerland
Germany
Austria
Czech Republic
Economist lower Japan
Singapore
Taiwan
Canada
Australia
Source: The Early Advantage: Early Childhood Systems That Lead by Example

“There are incredible lessons from these other countries,” Kagan said. The lessons “manifest themselves not only in what we can do but in how we actually think about young children and the services for them.”

In the U.S., caring for young children has long been considered the responsibility of individual families, not the government. With the exception of a few times in history where it was considered a national priority to bring women into the workforce temporarily, publicly funded child care has remained low on the list of programs receiving federal dollars. The federal money that is spent, mostly on preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds living in poverty (through programs like Head Start) and on helping states provide subsidized child care, is generally considered assistance for families struggling to make ends meet.

While all of the countries studied for “The Early Advantage” have low-income populations in need of extra assistance to provide their young ones with quality child care and education, none of them make income level a requirement for services. Instead, these countries offer near-universal systems that guarantee some level of education for children age 3 and older. Five of the countries, Hong Kong excepted, also offer provisions for infants and toddlers, whether it be subsidized care or extended (compared to the U.S.) paid parental leave.

Source: What can the US learn from international early childhood education?

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