Friday, July 30, 2010

National is wrong on ECE

Over on Pundit, Andrew Geddis has an interesting post on the value of early childhood education. His chief talking point? A study from the US showing that a qualified ECE teacher is worth US$320,000 a year. And that's just considering the net present value of the increased earnings of their students - not of deferred crime and healthcare costs. If teachers are worth that much, why are we cutting the subsidies to ECE centres to hire them?

The answer is twofold: firstly, of course, National wanted to spend that money on tax cuts for its rich mates. But the reason it cut ECE rather than, say, secondary schools, is because they basically see it is valueless. In National's eyes, ECE isn't education, but babysitting. And this is simply false. The study cited in the NYT is just one of a large pile, showing (in the words of The Spirit Level) that

Early childhood education programmes can foster physical and cognitive development. They can alter the long-term trajectories of children's lives, and cost-benefit analyses show that they are high-yield investments. In experiments, disadvantaged children who have received high-quality early childhood education are less likely to need remedial education, less likely to become involved in crime, and they earn more as adults. All of this adds up to a substantial return on government investment in such programmes.
National has entirely the wrong view of ECE, and this causes them to devalue it and underfund it. And the result is that we are robbing the future of brighter, healthier, better educated and better adjusted kids, so that a bunch of 50-year old males can get a tax cut.