15 May 2019, Chicago (Xinhua)
Early childhood education programs can impact life outcomes in ways that span generations, according to a report on Nobel laureate James Heckman’s research posted on the website of the University of Chicago Tuesday.
Heckman further expanded on a work originally done from 1962 through 1967, when 58 individuals out of 123 low-income African Americans were randomly assigned to enter a preschool program, called Perry Program that incorporated 2-and-half-hour weekday sessions and weekly one-and-half-hour home visits with a certified public school teacher. He draws from analysis of survey data, which accounts for approximately 85 percent of the original participants.
When compared with children of non-participants, the children of those who participated in the program were more likely to complete high school without suspension, with rate being 67 percent as against 40 percent for children of non-participants; and more likely to be employed full time or be self-employed, with rate being 59 percent as against 42 percent. They also were less likely to have ever been arrested.
The original participants showed better health according to biomedical tests administered around age 55, and were also more likely to report their own children being healthy.
The research validates the return on investment in early childhood education, and its lasting effects on the offspring’s upward mobility and breaking of cycles of poverty.
Heckman, who directs the Center for the Economics of Human Development at the University of Chicago, said the new research offers more evidence that successful early education programs hinge on engaging with children and building social and emotional skills.
Fostering those sorts of environments can lead to better life outcomes than trying to measure cognitive improvements, he said.
The research may push policymakers not toward universal pre-K programs, but to design interventions tailored to populations that are most in need and stand to benefit the most.