Quality early education equals better long-term relationships
Children accessing high-quality education at an early age – starting at six weeks old and continuing through their first five years of life – are more likely to be employed full-time and have better relationships with their parents as adults, according to a new report.
The study, which is now entering its fifth decade, follows 96 children who have continuously participated in the Abecedarian Project.
The project is an early education program for at-risk infants and children that started in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1971.
Abecedarian Project researcher Prof Craig Ramey said high-quality education all day for five days a week, and for 50 weeks a year, beginning at six weeks of age and continuing until the child starts kindergarten, made a lifetime of difference.
Latest study findings:
Educator and child interaction the magic ingredient
- When children attend a high-quality early learning centre from the age of six weeks to five years they reap a lifetime of benefits. By middle age, they are more likely to be in fulltime employment, own more assets and have a keen sense of social equality.
- Children who are in full-time childcare are more likely to have a better relationship with their parents later in life and be more successful.
Prof Ramey said teachers’ abilities to tailor educational activities to a child’s specific needs in a fun and natural way was the magic ingredient.
"And in our early education program, the most important thing is the quality of interaction between the teachers and the children," Prof Ramey said.
He pointed to the teachers' abilities to tailor educational activities to a child's specific needs, in a fun and natural way, as a critical element of the study's results.
The quality of natural teaching via social interaction between the teacher and child is highly important, especially in infancy, according to Prof Ramey.
Parents are instrumental to a child’s later success
Goodstart Early Learning Queensland state manager Dr Lesley Jones said while the study looked into the quality of early learning and its outcomes, there was no denying that parents were the most important influence on a child’s development in the early years.
“Children raised with positive parenting are more likely to be healthier and more resilient adults,” Dr Jones said.
“Without question, a child’s first five years are so important. It’s why we partner with our families during their child’s learning journey. The relationship we have with families is every bit as important as the relationship we have with children in ensuring great outcomes for children.
“We employ the latest evidence-informed practices known to achieve positive outcomes for children’s language development, thinking skills, and social-emotional and physical wellbeing.
“And our educators work closely with families to build positive and meaningful relationships that helps us individualise learning experiences to better suit a child’s culture, interests, needs, abilities and learning style.”