By Reg Ponniah
A highly regarded study is providing a clearer scientific understanding of how early childhood education can be an important contributor to academic achievement and social competence in adulthood 30 years on.
Adults who participated in the ECE programme in the 1970s are still benefiting from their early experiences in a variety of ways, according to the Abecedarian Project, conducted in the United States.
Researchers in the Abecedarian Project, led by the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, followed participants from early childhood through adolescence and young adulthood, to generate a comprehensive and rare set of longitudinal data.
The project was a carefully controlled scientific study (experiment) of the potential benefits of early childhood education for children from low-income families who were at risk of developmental delays or academic failure.
This article describes the project and the latest findings, along with a description of the programme features and the children and families who participated. Findings from a cost-benefit analysis of providing high quality ECE are outlined.
The article concludes that it would be very difficult to replicate the experiment and achieve the same results in different cultural contexts, and to provide ECE of the same type and with the same very high standards consistently to a larger number of children. The results therefore should not be generalised by making claims that ECE has long term benefits for children beyond the context of the Abecedarian Project experiment.
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