According to a new study led by the University of California, Irvine, skills-focused preschool programs are as good and perhaps better than the whole-child curricula at improving children's academic, behavioral and social outcomes. School readiness - the ability to understand the correspondence between sounds and letters (phonics), count, pay attention and develop relationships - is one of the main goals of public preschool initiatives such as Head Start.

The whole-child curricula promote learning by encouraging preschoolers to interact independently with their peers, and with equipment and materials in the classroom rather than specifically targeting developmental subjects like early math. According to Jade Jenkins, UCI assistant professor of education and lead author of the study, “On average, whole-child curricula cost $2,000 per classroom, but there appears to be very little benefit from these expenses. In contrast, we found that a skill-specific curricular approach that is developmentally sound and fun for preschoolers improves school readiness more than whole-child curricula and that there were no detrimental impacts on children’s nonacademic social and behavioral outcomes.”

Picture: Kindergarten is fun (Wikimedia Commons - w/Effects)