IMAGINE TWO CHILDREN MEETING FOR THE FIRST TIME. ONE COMES FROM A HIGH-QUALITY PRESCHOOL AND FROM AN AFFLUENT HOME WHERE TOOLS SUCH AS iPADS HAVE BEEN PART OF DAILY LIFE. THE OTHER COMES FROM A FAMILY THAT COULDN'T AFFORD QUALITY CHILDREN, LET ALONE THE LATEST TECHNOLOGICAL TOYS.
Pittsburgh, May 2012 - The gap between children starting school who are ready to learn and those who are not has always been wide. Just ask any kindergarten teacher about the educational disparities they see among their students, from the child who doesn't know the alphabet to the one who's reading like a third-grader.
With the ubiquitous nature of technology and its emergence as an essential element in all aspects of modern-day life, the gap is about to widen into a chasm.
Too few children have access to quality early childhood education. Quality is a function, in part, of teachers who are well-trained in child development. Attracting top talent to the profession requires competitive salaries, but today's pay scales are inadequate.
Many dedicated people make the sacrifice, but many others -- well equipped to guide children through these critical learning years and help introduce them to the power of technology -- take their talents to higher-paying fields.
As a consequence, not only children and families suffer, but so do businesses and our economy. Through age 5, children's brains develop 90 percent of their capabilities for communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork. These are the skills that employers need.
Research shows that children who lack literacy and language skills by third grade will not catch up. Children who enjoy quality early childhood education are more likely to graduate from high school, pursue higher education and earn higher lifetime salaries and benefits. They're also less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, commit crimes or rely on public assistance.
Assuring quality early learning for every child requires a tremendous commitment, but it's an imperative. No matter how big any business gets or how efficient it is in leveraging technology and optimizing processes, it still needs people who can deal with complicated issues and solve complicated problems. The simple tasks are getting automated. That's how humankind has evolved. Increasingly, the jobs that are available require complex skills that can only be instilled at a young age.
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