Early Childhood

Global Study Finds U.S. Trailing in Early-Childhood Education

By Lesli A. Maxwell — September 18, 2012 3 min read

The United States lags behind most of the world’s leading economies when it comes to providing early-childhood-education opportunities, despite improvements in recent years, a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows.

According to the report released last week by the Paris-based OECD, the United States ranks 28th out of 38 countries for the share of 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-primary education programs, at 69 percent. That’s compared with more than 95 percent enrollment rates in France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Mexico, which lead the world in early-childhood participation rates for 4-year-olds. Ireland, Poland, Finland, and Brazil are among the countries that trail the United States.

The United States also invests significantly less public money in early-childhood programs than its counterparts in the Group of Twenty, or G-20, economies, which include 19 countries and the European Union. On average, across the countries in the OECD report, 84 percent of early-childhood students were enrolled in public programs or in private settings that receive major government resources in 2010. Just 55 percent of U.S. preschool students were enrolled in publicly supported programs in 2010; 45 percent attended independent private programs.

“The United States is still pretty far behind much of the rest of the industrialized world,” in terms of publicly supported early-childhood opportunities, Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s deputy director for education and the special adviser on education policy to its secretary-general, said in a briefing.

He noted that the benefits of early-childhood education are apparent in the outcomes for individual students, but are less obvious at the school system or country level. He pointed to France, where participation is nearly universal, but overall outcomes for students who take the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, are not nearly as strong as they are in Finland, which ranks even lower than the United States on participation in formal early-childhood programs.

Parental Influence

But overall, students in OECD countries who have attended early-childhood programs tend to perform better on PISA than those who did not, said Mr. Schleicher.

The OECD’s annual international comparison of education systems included the early-childhood indicators for the first time this year, just as state and federal policymakers in the United States increasingly home in on the need for expanding access to quality early education for 3- and 4-year-olds as a key to preparing students for academic success later.

Other new measures examined how a parent’s education influences a child’s academic-attainment levels and factors that affect how immigrant children perform academically. They found that the United States presents some of the longest odds for college attainment for children born to parents who did not finish high school, ranking near the bottom on this indicator for upward social mobility. Just 29 percent of U.S. students whose parents did not finish high school are likely to go on to college, compared with over 70 percent in Iceland, and more than 60 percent in Turkey, Portugal, and Ireland. Only Canada and New Zealand ranked behind the United States on the social-mobility measure.

Among other key findings for the United States, the report also notes that:

• The United States ranks 14th in the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who have earned a postsecondary degree.

• American students rely more heavily on private sources to pay for higher education than their peers in other OECD countries.

• Teachers in the United States are paid less and spend more time teaching than their peers in most other OECD countries.

A version of this article appeared in the September 19, 2012 edition of Education Week as Global Study Finds U.S. Trailing in Early-Childhood Education

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Interdisciplinary STEAM Specialist
Smyrna, Georgia
St. Benedict's Episcopal School
Interdisciplinary STEAM Specialist
Smyrna, Georgia
St. Benedict's Episcopal School
Arizona School Data Analyst - (AZVA)
Arizona, United States
K12 Inc.
Software Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

Early Childhood New Players Fill Child-Care Gap as Schools Go Remote
As school districts move to remote instruction for the fall, day-care providers, dance studios, and after-school programs step in to fill school-day child-care gaps.
7 min read
A student works on schoolwork earlier this month at the Wharton Dobson Club in Wharton, Texas, part of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston. For a small fee, the organization is offering a full-day program that provides students a safe place to complete their remote learning classwork and socialize with friends.
A student works on schoolwork earlier this month at the Wharton Dobson Club in Wharton, Texas, part of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston. For a small fee, the organization is offering a full-day program that provides students a safe place to complete their remote learning classwork and socialize with friends.
Courtesy of Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston
Early Childhood Will Kindergartens Be Empty This Fall?
As cases of COVID-19 continue to grow, parents around the country are struggling with whether to send their child to kindergarten this fall. Some say they won't.
6 min read
Satiria Clayton was looking forward to her 5-year-old son Cassius starting kindergarten this year in Tempe, Ariz., but the recent spike in coronavirus cases has left her, like many other parents, worried about what to expect. "In an ideal would I would love to stay at home and teach him,” she said. “The reality is I have to send him to school."
Satiria Clayton was looking forward to her 5-year-old son Cassius starting kindergarten this year in Tempe, Ariz., but the recent spike in coronavirus cases has left her, like many other parents, worried about what to expect. "In an ideal would I would love to stay at home and teach him,” she said. “The reality is I have to send him to school."
Courtesy of Satiria Clayton
Early Childhood Letter to the Editor A Eulogy for Ken Goodman
To the Editor:
Several weeks ago, I spoke with an Education Week reporter about Ken Goodman in anticipation of an obituary about Ken’s passing and legacy (“Kenneth S. Goodman, ‘Founding Father’ of Whole Language, Dead at 92,” May 21, 2020). Great conversation. I looked forward to the tribute. I knew it would be complicated and controversial; Ken was complicated and controversial. But I was sure the controversy would be treated as part of the tribute.
1 min read
Early Childhood Letter to the Editor A Debate Over Phonics Instruction
To the Editor:
In her opinion essay, Heidi Anne E. Mesmer proclaims that explicit instruction in phonics is not enough: Children must be taught print concepts, phonemic awareness, morphology, and fluency (“Phonics Is Just One Part of a Whole,” Feb. 12, 2020).
1 min read