Despite being one of the most developed countries in the world, it looks like the United States may be falling behind other highly-industrialized countries in regards to preschool education. A study released this week by the University of London says that universal preschool is a way to create better students and workers, a topic that has been highly debated in the past two decades.
The study showed that children at age 10 who had attended preschool scored 27 percent higher in math and performed better in other subjects as well compared to boys and girls who did not start their education as early.
Critics of universal preschool have insisted that much of the initial gain in IQ and cognitive abilities resulting from early preschool education dissipates in later years — largely because of a dysfunctional K-12 system. Thus, critics argue, tax dollars spent on such programs are largely wasted and should be spent on K-12 education reform instead. However, the researchers for this study believe that the educational benefits of preschool are long-term and last through primary school.
The new study supports early preschool advocates who have argued that kids that attend preschool are more likely to graduate from college, are more productive workers and are less likely to participate in criminal activities. Some estimates even indicate that governments can expect to save $13,000 to $19,000 per child just by investing in early education. Recognizing the benefits of early preschool, China has invested in preschool education with the goal of building a more competitive work force.
With all the benefits associated with early schooling, it seems like compulsory preschool is an obvious way to improve a nation's economy. If the results of the study prove reliable, it may be time for the United States to stop arguing over the issue and embrace universal preschool education. Our reluctance certainly won't discourage other countries (and competing economies) from doing so.