Preschool raises morality levels, says study

 

CHILDREN WHO have the benefit of preschool are less likely to lie, cheat or steal as adults, a conference was told yesterday.

US educator Dr Larry Schweinhart, who pioneered a long-term longitudinal study into the benefits of early childhood education, said it was an accepted fact that those programmes helped with children’s cognitive development.

Such children had higher educational attainment as adults, earned more money and were less likely to get in trouble with the law as a result.

However, Dr Schweinhart said researchers were surprised to find that such children also exhibited higher levels of ethical behaviour in later life and had stronger moral values.

Dr Schweinhart said the modern preschool might have a similar impact to schools from Victorian times which emphasised good manners and taught children how to be proper men and women, although both methods of learning were very different.

Dr Schweinhart is the lead researcher on the HighScope Perry Preschool Study in the United States, which has traced the development of children from impoverished backgrounds who were the subjects of a radical preschool programme in the 1960s.

The research has found that every dollar spent on preschool yielded a return of $16 in terms of increased earning power, taxes and less demand on the criminal justice system.

Dr Schweinhart compared countries which cut back on preschool funding during harsh economic times to starving people who eat their seed corn during a famine.

“We are so focused on looking at the cost, we don’t look at the benefits until the lack of a benefit comes and bites us like crazy,” he told the youngballymun annual conference in Ballymun’s Axis Centre yesterday.

Youngballymun is the early intervention programme which is jointly funded by the Office of the Minister for Children and Atlantic Philanthropies.

Dr Schweinhart recommended those involved in preschool education should have a bachelor’s degree or a teaching certificate.

Prof Nóirín Hayes said she expected the imminent workforce development plan from the Office of the Minister for Children will insist that those involved in preschool education have at least a post-Leaving Certificate type of qualification, most likely the Further Education and Training Awards Council (Fetac) Certificate in Childcare level 5.

Youngballymun chief executive Eleanor McClorey said society had “non-negotiable” responsibilities towards children and the economic case for funding preschool education was “watertight”.

She said the ECCE scheme must be kept whatever other cuts are made in the budget.

  • There needs to be a “seismic shift” in the attitudes towards children in Ireland, social campaigner Sr Stanislaus Kennedy has claimed.

She cited a recent report in The Irish Timeswhich found there were 800 unaccompanied homeless children in Ireland. At the “SoulScapes” festival in Kilmallock, Co Limerick, last night, she estimated there were now 1,500 homeless children in Ireland.