Europe has best and nost affordable preschool education worldwide
A new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), commissioned by the Lien Foundation, reveals Europe has the best and most affordable preschool programs in the world. Despite the current economic climate, the report Starting well: Benchmarking early education across the world, shows these programs are so highly valued that they are unlikely to lose funding, despite budget cuts in many countries.
The study focused on children from ages three to six in 45 countries, analyzing the "critical years when children move from predominantly home-based care and start to interact in a group environment with specific learning targets, in preparation for the first grade of primary schooling," according to EIU.
Research suggests that government investment in early childhood education has benefits for both society and the individual, as seen in increased lifetime earnings, lower crime and welfare rates and a decreased need to invest in later remedial education. Three Scandinavian countries, Finland, Sweden and Norway, rank as the providers of the world’s finest early education, though other wealthy developed nations, including Canada and Australia, rank in the lower half of the index. These findings do not imply the countries lack quality preschool entirely, but that it remains unavailable to some members of society due to price and related issues.
However, several countries with lower than average per-capita incomes, including the Czech Republic and Chile, have made preschool a legal right. Through these means, the countries have ensured widespread access to early childhood education for all citizens, though significant gains in the quality of learning must still be made. Teacher education and training, parental involvement and curriculum guidelines are also vital to the quality and success of preschool education, and help ensure a difference from basic childcare. The EIU report recommends countries unable to properly fund preschools create guidelines and standards to assist in the development of quality early childhood education as their systems begin to take shape. Wealthier nations scoring low on the index should improve access to preschools and create legal requirements as to attendance, according to the study.