Considerable research shows that well-designed early childhood programs can help children, particularly those who are disadvantaged, build social, emotional and academic skills that can help them as students and in life.

The US seems to have missed that memo.

 In 2014, it had one of the lowest enrollment rates for children in early childhood and pre-primary programs among the world’s richest 35 countries. Only three do worse than the US…
Why it matters

The first few years of a child’s life are critical for building their adult success. “Serve and return,” the process by which adults engage with babies by making eye contact, smiling, talking and teaching them provide the basis for building communication and healthy relationships. Reading to kids, singing to them and having conversations builds literacy and language. Play helps kids socialize, develop motor skills and learn to be part of a group…

…But most parents work, making affordable childcare solutions critical, especially for poorer families where stress levels can be high…

It’s possible

Britain figured this out in 2004, when parliament reviewed the research on the benefits of early childhood programs…

The government now pays for any child in England who has turned three by Sept. 1 to have 15 hours a week of free child-care or preschool for 38 weeks a year, or 570 hours total…

Having subsidized childcare has significant ripple effects, including helping women balance work and home life…

The children benefitted too…children achieving “good development” has increased since the introduction of free preschool 12 years ago…

But it’s not happening in the US

Compare that to the US, one of the few developing countries where women are returning to work at increasingly lower rates a year after giving birth…

…According to the First Five Years Fund…less than half of low-income children have access to the kind of high-quality early childhood programs which research shows result in better health, education and employment later in life.
The evidence is not uniformly in favor of preschool…kids who attend preschool do better academically, but suffer socially, showing more signs of aggression and behavioral problems…
…closing the gap with other industrialized countries will require much more money as well as agreement on what to do.
Source: The US is failing to invest enough in early childhood education, one of the most critical periods in children’s development says the OECD — Quartz