Enrol in infancy and toddler years to boost benefits: Study
The Sector > Research > Enrol early to maximise lifetime benefits of ECEC, OU-Tulsa study finds

Enrol early to maximise lifetime benefits of ECEC, OU-Tulsa study finds

by Freya Lucas

December 06, 2023

While the news that high-quality early care and learning programs can positively impact children for years into the future is not new, researchers from the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa (OU) have added to the discussion with a study on the timing of enrolment to maximise learning benefits and long-term outcomes. 


Essentially the new research explores why some children who participate in early learning experience positive long-term outcomes, others see initial benefits fade out, and others experience detrimental outcomes.


The new study found that children need to be enrolled early, in infancy or early toddlerhood, to maximise the benefits of early learning in the long term.


Beginning in 2010, the researchers followed a cohort of 37 children who were 19 months or younger when they enrolled in Tulsa Educare, a high-quality, early-learning program.


A team from the Early Childhood Education Institute at the OU regularly evaluated the children’s academic outcomes and executive function through the end of third grade. These outcomes were then compared to a cohort of 38 children, serving as a control group, who were unable to get a spot at Tulsa Educare. (Children in the control group were cared for by relatives or family friends, enrolled in family childcare homes, or attended a public-school preschool program or local Head Start program.)


“To me, the results show the importance of starting early if you want to have large and sustained effects from high-quality early childhood programs,” shared Diane Horm, the Founding Director of the Early Childhood Education Institute at OU. 


A “sustained and large dose” of a high-quality early childhood program prior to kindergarten, Horm said, seems to be key to the lasting, positive results. 


“If we start early, we can prevent the achievement gap from forming.”


To access the findings in full, please see here

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