Pre-K Around the World: How does the U.S. measure up?
According to the results of a study conducted by Education at a Glance 2012, in the European Union, 83% of 4-year-olds were enrolled in preschool. In contrast, only 69% of U.S. 4 year olds were enrolled in preschool. Of the top fifteen countries included in the study, enrollment for four year olds exceeded 90 percent.
Why is this significant?
Studies found that those students who received a preschool education performed better at age fifteen in reading, mathematics and science using the Program for International Student Assessment. In addition, the more preschool education a child had, the higher they would score. The results: Students with just one additional year of preschool had scores almost 10 points higher.
How Pre-K Makes a Difference
According to the study, Preschool Experience in 10 Countries: Cognitive and Language Performance at Age 7, there are four critical policies and practices that are directly correlated to language and cognitive progress.
Classroom activities in which children are given the opportunity to choose some of their activities. Activities should include: arts, crafts and music.
Teachers with more years of fulltime schooling and experience.
Children spent less time in whole group activities, and more time in small group instruction.
Equipment and materials were readily available to the preschool classroom.
In addition, The International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) Preprimary Project also concluded that teacher education level is crucial.
In this study, more than 1,400 four-year-olds from countries such as Finland, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, Thailand and the United States were included. The purpose of study was to measure a child’s cognitive ability at the age of four. The child would then be re-tested at age seven. According to study director, Jeanne E. Montie:
“The findings highlight the importance of allowing children
to be active participants in their own learning, and of providing
ample opportunities for children to choose their own activities,
work individually or in small groups, and work directly with a
variety of materials. The findings also reinforce the importance
of the education of early childhood teachers.”
For this reason, Frontiers Academy carefully selects highly qualified and trained teachers whose credentials and academic degrees far exceed the requirements for their position.
Lets Look at Finland
In Finland, a child begins his formal education at age seven. Yet children in Finland consistently outperform students from the U.S. in math, reading and science. In spite of this later start, the majority of children enter school with solid reading and math skills. By age fifteen, Finnish students outperform all but just a few countries on international assessments.
In Finland, by law, every child in under the age of seven has the right to child-care and preschool. As a result, more than 97 percent of children aged three to six attend a preschool or Pre-K program. According to Krista Kiuru, Finland’s Minister of Education and Science, the key to Finland’s universal preschool system, however, is quality.
“First of all, it’s about having high-quality teachers. Day care teachers are having Bachelor degrees. So we trust our teachers, and that’s very, very important.”
In her book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, author Amanda Ripley compared Singapore, South Korea and Japan to Finland and discovered the following results:
“Kids are almost all in some kind of day care, all of whom are working in the same curriculum that’s aligned with what they’re
going to learn in school. That’s a level of coherence that most
U.S. kids will never experience because we don’t have a coherent system with highly trained people in almost every classroom.”
Though Finland’s Minister of Education and Science is hesitant to explain why the U.S. finds itself struggling, she does offer this bit of advice:
“If you invest in early childhood education, in preschool and day care, that will lead [to] better results,” Kiuru says.
At Frontiers Academy, we wholeheartedly agree.