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Short-term academic benefits from early childhood programmes


A new article in Early Childhood Research Quarterly has analysed the academic benefits of different types of formal early childhood programmes for children ages 4 and 5 in Australia. This included pre-year 1 (the first year of full-time formal schooling), school-based preschool, stand-alone preschool, and centre-based child care.

Children who did not attend any early childhood programmes lagged behind their peers in school readiness skills. However, by middle childhood all the early skill advantages had disappeared, showing rapid fadeout of academic benefits acquired from these specific types of early childhood programmes.

Of those who did attend programmes, the authors found that children who attended pre-year 1 held an initial, significant advantage in early academic skills, which they consider unsurprising as pre-year 1 is full-time formal schooling. The authors found little difference in terms of early academic skills between either type of preschool programme and centre child care, but there are difficulties in direct comparison. Although teachers in preschools have higher average qualifications compared to child care centres, preschool children spend far fewer hours in their programmes.

The data used in the research came from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). LSAC follows two cohorts of children, an infant cohort of children born between March 2003 and February 2004, and a child cohort who were between 4- and 5-years-old in 2004. Only the child cohort was used in this analysis, a nationally representative sample of 4,983 children.

Source: The Role of Early Childhood Settings for 4–5 year-old Children in Early Academic Skills and Later Achievement in Australia, Early Childhood Research Quarterly 29(4).

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