Pre-school pupils are still better readers aged 15

In Uncategorized on February 9, 2011 at 12:49 PM
The link below is to an article on the BBC education website that describes research that has found children who have been in pre-school education are likely to be much better readers when they are aged 15.
I understand that this article highlights the positive impact of preschool, and when I read the article the first question I asked myself is why isn’t preschool compulsory if this impact has been found?
But on reflection, having researched preschool practice in the UK, I found that the competition and funding issues mean a preschool place is not achievable for every child. For this reason I feel that the real question that comes out of this article is the following:
Why can’t our educational system bring those who have not been to preschool to the same level as their peers who have?

The findings show a marked advantage for attending preschool for children in the UK, but not for other countries such as Estonia, Finland, Ireland and South Korea. This suggests that the gap has been closed for individuals in other countries, but is this because said countries have inferior preschool to the UK? or is it because they have superior methods/curriculum?
Any thoughts??
  1. Interesting article. I agree that if the advantage of attending pre-school is so high, then surely it should be made compulsory. However, I think that perhaps there could be more to the correlation of attending pre-school, than just attending pre-school. Perhaps the differences between countries are due to differences in who gets to attend pre-school in those countries. For example, perhaps there is a greater difference in other factors (such as time spent reading with parents) that are also correlated with attending pre-school (whether this is because attending pre-school increases reading ability/ desire, which makes the parents more likely to read with their kids, or because parents who read with their children being more likely to send their children off to pre-school). I think it is interesting that the article points out that disadvantaged families stand to gain the most from attending pre-school. Could this be due to less time spent reading at home? I think that it is also interesting that the article points out that there are relatively big differences in reading ability between those who did and didn’t attend pre-school in France, but relatively small differences in Ireland. The article also points out that in Ireland around 50% of children attend pre-school, whereas in France it is almost universally attended. This suggests to me that perhaps in France, the children that do not attend, a clear minority, might also be a minority in many other ways, all of which may culminate to being less proficient readers. However, these points are rather speculative, and as you pointed out, there are practical issues such as funding.

  2. I agree with Gareth’s point that you can’t take the data at face value – parents who send their children to preschool might also be reading etc. with them at home. However, it is interesting that in some countries, attending pre-school has no affect on future academic performance.
    A possibility for the underlying cause of this is the structure of curriculums in different countries. Maybe countries with low pre-school attendance focus more on basic skills training during the first few years of schooling, while countries like France (with high pre-school attendance) assume that these basic skills have already been taught. This would result in the children who did not attend pre-school missing out on a key stage of their education, and as a result fall behind.

  3. Thanks for another interesting article! I have to say I was somewhat surprised by these findings as I have always regarded the purpose of pre-school to predominantly be to help children settle into a school surrounding away from their parents. I’ve always though pre-school works more on social skills than any academic skill as they are too young surely?

    I therefore take these findings with a pinch of salt. I worked in a preschool in West Yorkshire for a short spell of this summer and I remember being surprised by how little structure there was for the majority of the day. Tasks were set out on each table, but the children were allowed to come and go as they pleased. They therefore would often choose to participate in activities which took little skill such as playing in the ‘kitchen’. If this is how the majority of preschools are ran I fail to see how this could improve later reading-ability. As has often been discussed, there is scarce research to support the theory that ‘learning through play’ is beneficial.

    I do, however, acknowledge that there must be some truth behind this finding and that perhaps other preschools have more structure. The article made me ponder, even though a difference between pre-schoolers and non-preschools was not found for Estonia, Finland etc is their overall reading ability better or worse than the UK? If it is better then this would surely signal that they are using a more successful teaching methodology which should be implimented in the UK.

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