A few weeks ago, I was most certainly not surprised to find myself reading an article about the effect of subsidized preschool on our children. The BBC sums it up as “Benefits of Free Nursery Education ‘Not Lasting,’” and the Telegraph explains it as “X Factor over Evidence: The Failure of Early Years Education.” We find that despite spending billions of dollars, England has not seen long-lasting benefits for its children. Or at least not for the poorest. Whereas they ‘thought’ offering free schooling for 3-year-olds would reduce the income inequality between the poor and the rich further down the road, findings reveal that this expected benefit did not happen.
So what is the connection between subsidized preschool, institutionalization, and the economy? What are the (indirect) “benefits” that this subsidy has caused, yet go unrecognized in both of these articles? Institutionalization of our youngest, and the re-integration of both parents into the workforce. Control. Money. A growing economy. The number one priority of most governments.
School is a Must for 3-year-olds
The universalism of this subsidy meant that all kids, from rich and poor families, could receive free nursery education. Universalism meant that there was no ‘discrimination’ against wealthy families, and that they too could send their kids off to school. 3-year-olds got to leave their parents for numerous hours a week, so that they could ‘learn’. Because, evidently, parents don’t know how to teach. And, you know, the world itself is not a learning experience. School is a must, and if you don’t learn enough when you’re 3-years-old, you will become a failure. So this subsidized nursery education will influence how rich you will become.
What better way to teach our 3-year-olds what is right and what is wrong than when they’re taken away from their parents, and placed in an institutionalized setting with rules, regulations, and social norms being applied consistently? Why begin controlling populations when they’re 5 or 6 years old, when you can start as early as 3 years old? But of course we won’t frame it like that. Because we ‘care’ about parents. We ‘care’ about children. We understand the burden of caring for children. We understand the parents’ ‘need’ to get back into their much-loved jobs, away from their families.
Get Back to Work
Free childcare! Subsidized preschools! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very left-wing, but let’s tell it like it is. By offering free preschool, we get parents back into work. Their re-entry into the workforce is facilitated, and they do not have to worry about paying someone else to care for their children. They can go to work, and continue caring for their children after school.
For some families, subsidized preschool really is a great solution… to get back to work, and make money. Some families struggle significantly to make ends meet, especially if they have been confined to cycles of poverty, discrimination, lack of social assistance, or just plain old bad luck. Since poverty is relative, subsidized nursery education may also be the savior for well-off families, where both parents enjoy working away from their children, or could not continue to have their lifestyle if only one parent worked. Some families must go back to work, and others simply prefer to go back to work. But the outcome is still the same: they both get back to work. Whether they want to, or have to. And this is glorious news for government. It means the economy is growing. It means people are working, paying taxes, and then funding back their kids’ subsidized schooling. It makes the world go round.
Our Social Understanding
So we have free preschool, but one could argue that that does not mean we need to send our kids there. Yes, but our social conditioning encourages us to do so. We are ‘facilitating learning for children.’ What kind of parent wouldn’t want to do that? What kind of parent would not want their 3-year-old to be in the top 10% of their class? To withhold your child from institutionalized schooling will label you as a bad parent, not prioritizing the ‘growth’ of your children. Or, if you stay home with kids, you must be able to ‘afford it.’ Our government gives you free preschool, so it must be good! It must be the best solution, especially when our policy makers are spending billions of dollars to provide us with this lucrative opportunity.
The Real Effects on Children
While we’re at it, let’s just briefly discuss the real effects that this institutionalization has on our little ones. So, we’ve discovered that the multi-billion dollar subsidization in England did not lead to long-term benefits in relieving income inequality. But, what are the real effects of this push to preschool our little ones? As Exploring Homeschooling mentions, preschool undermines the parent-child bond and the sibling-child bond, and it exposes children to destructive peer influences. Teaching mama explains that by homeschooling your preschooler, you know exactly what they are being taught, you can modify the curriculum based on the child’s needs or interests, you can have a relaxed schedule, and you can discuss inappropriate behaviours right when they happen. Preschool cannot offer this to your little one. In other words, your 3-year-old is missing out.
What evidence-based research has taught us, is that children, especially young children, need parents. They need their caregivers. They need us. They do not need to be institutionalized, and they do not need to be taught the rigid rules and regulations of these institutions. Life is their playground. Indeed, children from abusive or violent households may benefit significantly from an intervention, but is free universal preschool the answer to these limited cases?
This study has shown us that free universal nursery education did not provide the anticipated results in England. What the study failed to mention was the effects of this subsidization on the economy and on families. So what can be done? Families need to, or prefer to, work. Families are the ones deciding whether or not their children will receive care from them, or from the institutions they send them to. What remains clear is that all families need to be made aware of the benefits of keeping preschoolers at home, with loved ones. Families are the ultimate decision makers, so they need all the information they can get, even if it makes it uncomfortable for them to know the evidence-based research.
So we have these billions of dollars available, but what should we do with them if free universal preschool is not offering us the benefits we wanted? Apart from the benefits of money (larger workforce and growing economy) and control (institutionalization of little ones) that this program provides the government, families are missing out on the special bonding and care that is unattainable elsewhere. One option would be for policy makers to direct some of this funding to help offset expenses of families wishing to spend more time with their little ones. Facilitate job sharing. Encourage greater benefits for part-time employment. This is all possible. And with a family- and child-oriented perspective, government can provide significant benefits that will most certainly continue in the long-term. Because our children are our future. And love and nurturing is invaluable.