Balancing The Early Years Education Pay-Off

There seems to be a growing consensus from different parts of the world about the benefits of education both to individuals and to the common good and economic well-being. What this means in terms of particular policies in different places may however be less obvious.
It’s probably not just random co-incidence which finds the New York Times and the BBC putting out complementary news items on education today.
The first of these items concerns the ‘return’ on education for the economy as a whole. The second is about the positive effects of nursery education on adults’ employment prospects and earnings. Each of these reports offers yet more evidence that education, as an overall experience and in the context of early years, is worthwhile both for the individuals concerned and for society as a whole.
Individual impact
In a British study, researchers Alissa Goodman and Barbara Sianesi of the Institute of Fiscal Studies have just reported that ‘starting education before the compulsory school starting age at five can have long-lasting, positive impacts on children’s lives.’
The IFS research findings suggest that adults with a nursery or playgroup background were more likely to have gained qualifications and be in work at the age of 33, and also offer evidence that such adults were able to sustain a 3-4% wage gain over others at that age. This is obviously encouraging to those currently engaged in enhancing pre-shcool provision in the U.K.
Impact on society
The American studies, some of them by Princeton’s Professor Alan Krueger, also point to an educational advantage (of up to 10% overall) for individuals who continue in education, with the impact being most pronounced for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The particularly interesting debate however concerns the effect on education on the economy as a whole. And in this there seems to be consensus across the Atlantic: UK economist Professor Jonathan Temple of Bristol is reported as agreeing with Harvard’s Professors Lawrence Katz and Claudia Goldin that the impact on total economic growth of extra education is at least as significant as that for individuals, with perhaps up to a 10% growth in gross domestic product. But as ever how this education should be funded, and to what extent, is less clear.
What’s good for people is good for society
The conclusion from these and other studies seems quite firmly to point towards a commonality of interest between those who strive as individuals to benefit from education, and those who as a matter of policy provide it. The evidence is unsurprising – education, from the early years onwards, produces people who are more able both to succeed in their personal lives and to contribute to their communities, society and overall well-being.
The next question, as politicans and decision-makers both sides of the Pond acknowledge, is at what level of public investment at any stage in individuals’ educational careers will there be optimal return in respect of socio-economic pay-off? Answers to that question may, even within the current economy-led consensus across the western world, yield very different specific policies in different places.

Posted on December 11, 2005, in Education, Health And Welfare, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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