The evidence is irrefutable. The benefits that children get from a quality early childhood education are enormous and have a positive and lasting impact on their lives through their school years and beyond.
The Perry Preschool Program, a groundbreaking and definitive study which tracked participants through school and into adulthood, highlighted the extent of the benefits with its revelations that children who underwent a high-quality pre-school programme had improved primary school readiness, higher employment rates, higher earnings rates and reduced interaction with the justice system.
And there are plenty of other studies that all draw the same conclusion: early childhood education has a major impact on the quality of a child’s future and how successful they are at school and later on in life.
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Clearly, the quality of the educational environment is critical and children who are treated with warmth, respect, care and positivity will enjoy greater success and at higher levels than those who are judged or treated negatively. Early learning environments such as Reggio Emilia inspired centres empower children to develop a love of learning and build a strong sense of self, which is so critical for later success and fulfilment.
These are five of the key benefits of quality early childhood education:
Co-operation and teamwork Taking turns, sharing, collaborating, teamwork and co-operating are tough skills for children to acquire but with supporting and caring guidance from qualified educators, they will learn these concepts. An early learning environment where there is a strong focus on social collaboration and where children work in groups as equal participants is an excellent foundation for children to learn about the importance of co-operation and teamwork.
Love of learning Young minds need cultivating. They also need a fun, stimulating, safe and nurturing learning environment where they’re encouraged to explore, discover, examine, criticise, reflect and develop their problem-solving skills. A quality early education experience will help children to become enthusiastic and effective learners, with enquiring minds and a thirst for knowledge and understanding.
Respect and tolerance These skills are often underrated but are yet so crucial. Children are more likely to learn good manners, to respect others even when they may not like what they are doing or saying, respect their immediate environment and the wider world and be tolerant if they are guided and supported by skilled educators at early learning centres.
Resilience and patience In the busy pre-school world, life can be pretty hectic. There’s lots of action and different activities happening, and because their little minds are lively and energetic, children will want to try different things. However, things won’t always go their way - they may ‘lose’ a game, be left out of an activity, be disappointed in an outcome or find that the activity or item they want isn’t available to them - and they need these first-hand experiences to build resilience, learn to be patient and manage their emotions.
Social and emotional development A healthy self-esteem is a crucial lifeskill. A quality childhood education can help kids develop a strong and positive sense of self which will stand them in good stead throughout their lives. This is evidenced in schools that follow the Reggio Emilia approach where children’s thoughts, ideas and questions are listened to, acknowledged, valued and respected, and through their interactions with others, they form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world.