Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Spend now or later? Now.

As lawmakers look in to how to raise a more competitive, smarter workforce, they're asking, "Where will we get our biggest return on investment in education? Early in life, or later?" A new study suggests that spending more on a child's early childhood education yields a bigger return than money spent in the older years.

Admittedly, papers like this come out every once in a while, so how are these findings different?

"Although much research has been published on the value of positive early experiences, this paper pulls those strands together into an integrated message that the group hopes will help guide public policy in the future. They've already influenced legislation in Washington state and Nebraska and have begun working with lawmakers around the country with a nonpartisan partner, the National Conference of State Legislatures."

Here is a few ways to look at it in a concrete albeit futuristic way
  • A child's eventual ability to learn calculus or a second language, he explained, starts with the neurons that are shaped by positive interactions with nurturing adults.
  • As more and more unskilled jobs move overseas, the United States needs a well-educated work force to stay economically strong. Getting that work force means making sure more kids are able to benefit from their education; that means making sure their brains are well-prepared to learn.
  • "The key issue is the nature of kids' relationships with the important people in their lives. It's not about the toys, it's about the human connection," Shonkoff said.
(thank you to Molly McGinn for referencing this exciting study)

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