A new study, involving researchers from the University of California, Irvine School of Education, reveals mixed results regarding the long-term impact of publicly funded preschool programs in the U.S. on future student performance.

"Early childhood education is an essential component of any nation’s public policy," said study co-author Jade Jenkins, an associate professor of education at UC Irvine. He added, however, that what remains unsettled is the extent to which preschool shapes achievement and well-being later in life.

The researchers evaluated the Head Start program alongside public prekindergarten initiatives in Boston and Tennessee. Their findings indicate that while children experience immediate academic benefits from preschool, the long-term effects are inconsistent. This suggests that not all early education programs ensure sustained positive outcomes, underscoring the need for further research into effective preschool interventions.

Historically influential studies, such as the Perry Preschool and Abecedarian projects from the 1960s and 1970s, demonstrated that early education could lead to better academic performance, higher income, improved employment rates, and reduced criminal behavior. These findings, however, are based on programs from over five decades ago, prompting the need for contemporary evaluations of current preschool programs.

Professor Greg Duncan highlighted that the demonstrated long-term success of intensive preschool programs like Perry Preschool provides insights into what can be achieved. However, policymakers require clarification on whether the lessons learned from Perry Preschool are applicable to present-day programs. Recent research indicates that this seems to be the case in certain instances, but not in all.

The study advocates for more research to identify the critical elements of successful preschool programs, focusing on cognitive and socioemotional skills that provide lasting benefits. This approach aims to refine and enhance the effectiveness of early childhood education in shaping long-term student outcomes.


Picture: AELF Early Learning Center, Pasil, Cebu City