Preschool: Do We Really Need It?

by Arianna Sarjoo

A growing group of parents today obsess over determining their child’s multi step plan to an ivy league college and a career so full of success, you would think they never struggled. With access to the abundance of information resources a parent can receive from the internet and through communication with other parents, creating that goal plan is easier to do, and the goal is typically larger and larger.

For many, the first step in jump starting their child’s educational career begins at preschool. Whether public or private, preschool is considered one of the most ideal spaces to expose children to the first reading, writing and mathematics skills they will use for the rest of their lives. However, the profound expectation that preschools are necessary for a child’s development is unrealistic.

According to W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D., professor at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, a series of experiments referenced in The Future of Children – Winter 1995 investigated the effect of early childhood programs on “cognitive and school outcomes.” Test results for the effect of educational programs on a child’s achievements varied in results; four of the eleven investigations found no effect, five found an initial effect that declined and ceased to be significant by the third grade, and the remaining investigations found a statistically significant effect in the cognitive abilities of children after the third grade.

While the range of data does not negate the benefits of preschool on a child’s cognitive developments, no conclusion can accurately be ascertained. This inconsistency in data can be chucked up to a range of possible, uncontrolled variables that can be the true reason for why some kids retain more cognitive skills than others with the use of early childhood programs like preschool.

One such factor that plays a key role in the quality of life for a child intellectually, but also emotionally and physically, is the child’s environment. Their “environment” refers to the exposure and practicing of educational (reading, writing and mathematics) skills outside of preschool, with the help of the child’s parent or guardian. Research by The Future of Children – Winter 1995 also describes a possible link between the success of students and the incomes of their parents.

Children in household environments that encourage intellectual development happen to retain a larger portion of educational skills developed in early childhood programs such as preschool. Perhaps, preschool is not the “holy grail” jumpstart to a child’s academic future, but rather the academic exposure they face at home is. Preschool is not a necessary commodity for all children, and the same skills developed by young ones at such places can be learned and implemented in the comfort of their own home.


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