IMPORTANCE OF EARLY YEARS LEARNING

IMPORTANCE OF EARLY YEARS LEARNING

Raises women’s attainment

Comment

A new study by Professor Andy Green and Dr Tarek Mostafa of the Institute of Education, University of London, confirms that early-years education raises attainment levels and opens employment doors for many women.

The researchers analysed education and employment data for 16 countries, including the UK, and calculated that, on average, a 10 per cent increase in pre-school education attendance leads to a 6 per cent rise in female employment.

However, the study’s authors challenge the idea that pre-school education narrows the social-class divide in achievement at secondary school. “There is little evidence that inequalities in educational outcomes at 15 have reduced, even in countries where there are high levels of participation in pre-school programmes,” they  told  the European Conference on Educational Research in Berlin last month  . “Moreover, the effects seem to vary across countries. This may be partly because the quality of provision accessed by different social groups is not consistent.” Green and Mostafa acknowledge that previous research – some based on evidence gathered by the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study – has shown that attending high-quality early-years programmes can result in significant cognitive gains. The benefits tend to be greatest in centres that integrate care and learning and where teachers are well-qualified.  The IOE researchers also note that the international PISA surveys of 15-year-olds conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have underlined the importance of pre-school education. In all of the 34 countries surveyed by the OECD, pupils who attended pre-primary education for more than one year out-performed those who did not. Nevertheless, as Green and Mostafa point out, OECD surveys also show that disadvantaged and advantaged pupils usually benefit equally from pre-school education. Furthermore, children from higher social-class backgrounds are more likely to receive pre-school education than youngsters from poor and immigrant families — even in Scandinavia.

Note

“Pre-school education and care – a ‘win-win’ policy?” was presented on 16 September  at the ECER conference in the Freie Universität Berlin. Professor Green is director of the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES), which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Dr Mostafa is a research officer at the centre.

 

The paper by Professor Green and Dr Mostafa analyses economic, employment and education data on the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. The researchers also compared pre-school participation rates and educational outcomes in 33 countries.

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