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Why is early childhood education so important?

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

Every year, tens of millions of parents enroll their children in early childhood education programs. But does early childhood education actually make a difference in terms of educational attainment?

Parents often wonder why young children need to be enrolled in preschool. Some assume their kids are only learning the names of the letters or numbers–concepts they feel they could easily teach on their own. However, a wealth of recent research points to a great need for mental stimulation between the ages of 2 to 5, as this is when children make the greatest gains in learning. For example, toddlers are barely able to put a sentence together, but by the time they enter kindergarten, kids can have long, complicated discussions with adults.

According to a 2007 publication from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, children build more complex skills from the basic, foundational capabilities (often fostered in early development curricula). Children placed in preschool programs are given greater opportunities to develop a wide range of skills, thus better preparing them for the additional challenges that will be presented in kindergarten.  And with the ever-increasing push for high test scores, children not enrolled in preschool risk being incredibly far behind from the moment they begin grade school.

Additional benefits of early childhood education

While achieving high graduation rates is a worthy goal in and of itself, it is certainly not the only positive outcome that arises from enrolling children in preschool. The National Education Association (NEA) lists several studies that show the vast benefits of early childhood education, lower rates of teenage pregnancy, reduced juvenile delinquency, better scores on standardized tests, a greater ability to move through the grades without having to repeat any and, of course, greater levels of employment and higher wages in adulthood.

The evidence makes in clear: early childhood education is a worthwhile investment. Parents able to enroll their children in preschool should definitely do so, as it provides their kids a significant step up in life.

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