Invest early in education of the disadvantaged and the investment reaps educational and social returns


The Jesuits maxim –  give me a child for  his first seven years and I’ll give you the man– has a certain resonance,  and there now seems to be a growing evidence led  consensus that high quality early interventions   can help, particularly disadvantaged pupils, to improve their outcomes.  Professor James Heckman of Chicago University  claims that there is very clear empirical evidence that investment in early years education  promotes equity ie fairness and economic efficiency. He and colleagues have examined many studies concerning early investment in education and its impact on adult outcomes. He concludes firstly that inequalities in early childhood experiences  produces inequality in ability achievement, health and adult health. He adds ‘while important cognitive abilities alone are not as powerful as a package of cognitive skills and social skills-defined as attentiveness perseverance, impulse, control and sociability.’

Very significantly, he found that ‘adverse impacts of genetic, parental and environmental resources can be overturned  through investments in quality early childhood  that provide children and their parents with  the resources they need to properly develop the cognitive and personality skills that create  productivity’.

Finally  investments in early education for disadvantaged children  from birth to five helps reduce the achievement gap , reduces the need for special education , increases the likelihood of healthier lifestyles,  reduces crime rates  and  lowers social costs.  ‘In fact every dollar invested in high quality early childhood education produces a 7 to 10% return on investment.  Professor Heckman says that ‘Policies that provide early childhood educational resources to the most disadvantaged children produce greater social and economic equity. We can create a level and more productive playing field by making wise and timely investments in education’.   The Economics of Inequality-James  Heckman , Professor of Economics, University of Chicago



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