Is preschool important for children?
- As of January 2023, 18 states — Hawaii, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont — offer some form of tax-funded universal pre-k.
- The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania predicted in June 2022 that the US Government would spend approximately “$351 billion dollars over the next 10 years” on nationwide universal preschool for three- and four-year-olds.
- The National Center for Education Statistics found that since 2010, 52-54% of three-to-four-year-old children have attended preschool. However, preschool attendance was widely reduced by 40-50% between 2020-2021 due to the COVID pandemic.
- Between 2005-2019, the US Census Bureau found no “discernable pattern to increase in preschool enrollment across states.”
A myth has been perpetuated over the past few decades in American education: more time in school at younger ages leads to more educational success. In reality, more schooling does not necessarily correlate with academic excellence. In fact, preschool has little effect on helping children with elementary school and can even hinder them in many cases.
Parents seem to be sending their children off to school at earlier ages when the truth is preschool isn't benefiting the students. Instead of enrolling children in school as soon as possible, children should spend quality time with their families. An article by Children Central, written in November of 2019, shows that adequate family time boosts self-esteem and improves the child's happiness.
Additionally, preschool can force kids to develop faster than they are able to or should, often contributing to other problems. A recent Harvard study shows the dangers of enrolling kids in school too early—even contributing to an overdiagnosis of ADD or ADHD. Stanford University reinforces this claim, showing that even a year of delay to school can help decrease the diagnosis of attention disorders.
Other negative disadvantages to consider about preschool are cost, limitation of creativity, and exposure to negative peer socialization. Unfortunately, our post-pandemic world has created some new challenges in preschools regarding behavior and socialization. Parents may think twice before sending their kids to school so early and should instead consider the prominent role of quality family time in a young child's development.
Overall, evidence shows that preschool is a waste of time and money. Business Insider writes, 'Preschool doesn't offer kids anything they can't get more easily—or more cheaply—through other means.' Today, kids don't need more schooling; they need more love and quality time in the home.
Children attend preschool during a crucial time in their development, setting the tone for their educational structure. According to experts, preparing new students for future academic success and building foundational scholastic skills is essential, as this age represents a developmental window where the child's brain is influenced heavily by their surroundings. Preschool's short- and long-term benefits are numerous and too compelling to ignore.
A 2017 KQED study showed attending preschool improves the child's future, as it improves the odds of graduating high school and contributes to better physical health than those who did not participate in preschool while reducing chances of incarceration. Unsurprisingly, it's also linked to better grades early in elementary school, as decades of research prove preschool attendance better prepares children for kindergarten. Likewise, it improves a child's overall skill development, especially with bilingual students, who can benefit from multicultural instruction.
Moreover, low-income and disadvantaged students stand to gain the most from attending preschool. Early educational experience enhances diversity in the classroom, and equitable access to preschool helps mitigate the pronounced effects of poverty on school readiness.
Other factors associated with preschool effectiveness are high-quality curriculum and teacher training. Preschool provides opportunities to positively explore learning and develop a range of social and emotional skills through games, music, play, and movement. Preschool's combination of playful learning and supportive instruction by trained teachers fosters creativity and curiosity while encouraging young students to build self-regulation skills. It promotes positive interactions with peers, improves attention span, and allows children to regulate their emotions healthily. What more could parents want for their children?