Each summer, one of the most common questions that working parents ask each other is “What are you doing with your kids? Do you have summer arrangements?” Indeed, the summer months can be quite a headache for many parents. After preschool, daycare, and summer camp programs end, three weeks remain before the start of the school year, leaving parents to scramble to find a childcare solution. This presents an opportunity to discuss the importance of childcare frameworks that are both of a high-quality and accessible to all families.
The subject of the quality, duration and regulation of childcare is frequently at the center of public discourse and the media. At the heart of this discussion are claims about the importance of social investment in early childhood. Social investment is an approach that stresses the development of human capital in the population and the optimal integration of everyone, especially marginalized and weaker groups, into society and the labor force.
Many studies indicate the importance of investment in early childhood education and its impact on childhood development. Research conducted by Yossi Shavit, Isaac Friedman, John Gal, and Dana Vaknin, Emerging Early Childhood Inequality: On the Relationship Between Poverty, Sensory Stimulation, Child Development, and Achievement, shows that social investment through high-quality educational programs in preschool settings is likely to contribute to optimal developmental gains for children over time. In many cases, the effect can continue over a child’s life span.
The study also finds that high-quality, accessible educational frameworks may mitigate disadvantages, particularly for children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. For example, an intervention program in New Jersey that included an upgrade of the educational staff, wage incentives, and the implementation of a challenging curriculum, reduced achievement gaps of children from under-privileged families by about 30% in reading skills, math, and general knowledge.
In the Netherlands, furthermore, it has been found that young children ages 2-6 who attended a long-term, high-quality educational program narrowed educational disparities not just in terms of vocabulary, but also in soft skills, like selective attention.
All told, there is a growing body of knowledge regarding the importance of high-quality educational frameworks for early childhood and the impact that such programs have on the development of cognitive skills in children, especially those living in poverty. Given this, and the expected positive influence of improved early childhood education for society as a whole, it seems that investment in high quality educational programs for young children, particularly in weaker population groups, would go a long way in reducing inequality and improving the lives of Israelis in the long term.