NCEE study provides global insights on innovation in early childhood settings
The Early Advantage study, funded by National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), has examined early childhood policy, practice and service delivery across early childhood services in Australia, England, Finland, Hong Kong, The Republic of Korea, and Singapore, finding that each are pioneering new but remarkably different visions for early childhood education and care (ECEC).
Part one of the results has been released in print as “The Early Advantage 1: Early Childhood Systems That Lead By Example”
Researchers, led by Sharon Lynn Kagan, analysed the quality, equity, efficiency and sustainability of services for young children in the six countries, conducting an in depth analysis of the innovative strategies and approached to ECEC and offering perspective on the challenges, themes and lessons from the diverse systems.
“This study brings to light the striking new reality facing ECEC systems around the world,” said Ms Kagan. “For the first time, we are seeing clearly the disparate and rapidly evolving global perspectives in ECEC. These differing perspectives and approaches to the “how” and “what” of systemic change reflect a policy and research sphere that is at an inflection point.”
Funded and supported by NCEE’s Center on International Education Benchmarking, this is the first of two books, published by Teachers College Press, that together will form the centerpiece of the multi-year Early Advantage international comparative study.
Ms Kagan, the Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Early Childhood Education and Family Policy at Columbia University’s Teachers College and Professor Adjunct at Yale’s Child Study Center, drew together a research team comprised of experts in educational research and policy across the globe, including:
- the late Collette Taylor, to whom the book is dedicated, professor emeritus of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education;
- Kathy Sylva, honorary research fellow and professor of educational psychology at the University of Oxford;
- Kristiina Kumpulainen, professor of education and vice dean for research at the University of Helsinki;
- Nirmala Rao, professor in early childhood development and education at the University of Hong Kong;
- Mugyeong Moon of Korea’s Institute of Childcare and Education, and
- Rebecca Bull of the National Institute of Education in Singapore.
In this first book, the Early Advantage research team challenges prevailing ideas, confronting deeply held assumptions and historic narratives regarding the provision of ECEC. The research team found that the countries studied are paying close attention to the growing empirical evidence around the importance of the first three years of life for brain development as it impacts public policy and a shared equity agenda, pedagogy and new ideas around quality of care for young children.
A few key findings of note in each country include:
o A strong and well-implemented national reform agenda enables a learning framework and service quality standards to transcend states and territories, service types, and the age of the young child.
o A first-rate inspection system ensures all programs meet common objectives for program quality and equitable outcomes.
o Rigorously collected child data are used extensively as tools for pedagogical and program improvement.
o A centralized national core curriculum for early years education, pre-primary education and basic education leaves room for local and regional flexibility tailored to child needs.
o A comprehensive pre-service professional development system for ECEC teachers contributes to quality across the nation.
o Increasing public support, combined with significant inspection and monitoring for quality, fosters effective private sector provision amidst considerable centralization.
Republic of Korea
o Substantial government investment in ECEC harmonizes service quality.
o Government-funded institutes, with a robust commitment to research, support knowledge development in ECEC.
o Its Early Childhood Development Agency serves as a centralised point for policymaking, oversight and access to affordable and quality ECEC.
o Rigorous training and defined career pathways create a clear framework for professional advancement and development for ECEC professionals.
NCEE President and CEO Marc Tucker said the book represented a vital contribution to developing and promoting the notion that the early years play a pivotal role in lifelong outcomes for children.
A second book, The Early Advantage 2, is due to be published in 2019, and will explore the ‘building blocks’ which serve as the cornerstones for high quality ECEC.
These building blocks are the synthesis of the research team’s exploration of how the differing countries approach quality and equity in their unique contexts.