JIS News

The development and implementation of a high quality early childhood programme, could very well be the best solution to Jamaica’s social and economic problems, Executive Director of the Early Childhood Commission, Merris Murray has argued.
In her address to members of the Rotary Club of Kingston at a luncheon on February 10 at the Jamaica Pegasus, Miss Murray noted that this important sector could lead to far-reaching economic and social benefits to the country.
“Investment in early childhood development could yield returns valued at 4:1. This would be based on a reduced need for remedial education, a reduction in the use of social service agencies, and a reduction in crime and violence,” she said.
Citing a major benefit to be derived from such a programme, the Director pointed out that there would be increased income, as mothers would be able to acquire jobs, having placed their children in Early Childhood Centres at an early stage.
The fertility rate, she said, could also be drastically reduced, as working mothers tended to bear fewer children, while placing emphasis on career development.
According to Miss Murray, the setting up of the centres would also create employment for many of the persons living in those communities, as manual workers, such as cooks, caretakers and cleaners were normally drawn from the community in which a centre is situated.
“There is also improvement in the efficiency of primary schools, as the early childhood experience prepares young children for entry, thus making a smooth transition. We also see a reduction in the rate of high school drop-outs because children by then would have developed a positive attitude toward lifelong learning,” she said.
Miss Murray highlighted other benefits, including the reduction of poverty over the long term, as well as a reduction in crime and violence, as children who were breast-fed tended to have higher IQ levels and were more nurturing and caring.
Citing the High Scope Perry Early Childhood Development programme in Michigan in the United States, she said this programme was a prime example, where children were followed from ages 3 or 4 to adulthood at age 27 years. All the participants are African-American children who lived in the same neighbourhood in the 1960s. At the study’s outset, the youngsters were randomly divided into a programme group, who received a high-quality active learning preschool programme, and a no-programme control group.
Researchers assessed the children in both groups annually from ages 3 to 11, at ages 14-15, at age 19 and at age 27 on variables representing certain characteristics, abilities, attitudes and types of performance.
The study findings at age 27 indicated that programme participants had:
Higher monthly earnings (29 per cent vs. 7 per cent earning $2,000 or more per month)
Higher percentages of home ownership (36 per cent vs. 13 per cent)
A higher level of schooling completed (71 per cent vs. 54 per cent completing 12th grade or higher)
A lower percentage receiving social services in the past 10 years (59 per cent vs. 80 per cent) Fewer arrests by age 27 (7 per cent vs. 35 per cent having five or more arrests)
At age 19, programme participants had significantly higher general literacy levels and spent fewer years in programmes for educable mental impairment (15 per cent vs. 34 per cent spending a year or more in such programmes).
Given these long-term results, the programme has been estimated to save US$7.16 for every US$1.00 invested, due to savings in lower education and welfare expenditures combined with gains in productivity.

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