Report

Early learning programs that promote children’s developmental and educational outcomes

31 Aug 2012
Description

This resource sheet reviews international and Australian research evidence for the characteristics of early learning programs that are effective in promoting developmental and learning outcomes.

The early years of life are the best opportunity to lay the foundations for a child’s future. By getting it right in early childhood, we plant the seeds for tomorrow’s engaged and active student, productive and skilled worker, and confident and loving parent. Investments of time and money in the early years have been shown to be far more cost-effective than investments made at any other time.

The skills children develop as infants, toddlers and preschoolers are cumulative and form the basis for later skill development. Early learning contributes to a chain of effects that either reinforces initial achievements or exacerbates initial difficulties. As a result, children enter school with marked differences in the cognitive, emotional, attention-related, self-regulatory, learning and social skills needed for success in the school environment, and these differences are predictive of later academic success.

Progress during the school years depends partly on early levels of functioning and partly on family socioeconomic status. Throughout the early years, socioeconomic disadvantage is associated with poorer outcomes in language and literacy, communication, socioemotional functioning and early learning skills.

Attending an early learning program in the years before school has been shown to have significant benefits for children’s development, particularly for children growing up in situations of socioeconomic disadvantage or special need. However, many of these children miss out due to problems of access and uptake or cost and quality.

This resource sheet reviews international and Australian research evidence for the characteristics of early learning programs that are effective in promoting developmental and learning outcomes.

The bulk of this research is not Indigenous-specific. The review focuses on centre-based or school-based education and care settings; universal and targeted approaches to program delivery; and Australian studies that address the needs of Indigenous children.

 

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2012
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