Many different opinions exists as to what should the ‘Universal Preschool’ program include. However, the basic idea can be defined as a preschool program funded by the state which serves children aged 3-4. …
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According to Brotherson (2005), “A 3-year-old toddler's brain is twice as active as an adult's brain.” However, given today’s scenario of every increasing cost of living it is very difficult for parents to stay at home all the time to take care of their young children.
Additionally, most parents cannot afford to send them to a good day care/preschoolwhere the child would be taken care of not just in terms of their basic need of being fed and kept clean, but also their psychological development needs. A ‘Universal Preschool’ is a program which addresses both the concerns. Both about the financial aspects and quality of care provided. HISTORY Universal preschool is a program spanning across international geographies. It is said to have started in France in 1834. However, in the US the Head Start program which started in 1965 as a summer school marked the beginning of universal preschool. Many states now have their own universal preschool programs which may differ in structure, but cater to the same needs. For example, Georgia’s universal preschool program which began in 1995 serves all 4 year olds and is a voluntary program. Similarly, Florida started in 2005 with a voluntary program serving 4 year old children (LeMire, 2009). Other states which are running such a program: Illinois, New Jersey, Oklahoma and West Virginia. States which are currently doing ground work to implement universal preschool program: Vermont, Wisconsin, Maryland, New York, Maine, Louisiana, and New Mexico (LeMire, 2009). RISKS The most common arguments given against universal preschools are: huge cost to the state, no long-term impact, negative behavioral and lack of substantial difference in child’s development and cognitive ability.All of these in turn raise questions on efficiency of tax-dollars spent. Out of these, the one associated with behavior problems is more important and something that needs more serious consideration. According to Hanson (2007), Dr. David Scott in 1989 said addressing an international psychiatric conference in Eastern Europe: “Institutionalized children... suffered developmental retardation and deprivation. In comparison with children raised in families, the institutionalized children suffered heightened emotional disorders, fear, tension, behavioral disorders, and even such physical symptoms as weight loss and more frequent respiratory infections.” These were the findings for a 20 year period after WWII when 90% of Czech children were sent to state run preschools. (p. 1) BENEFITS Universal preschoolsadhere to better health and safety standards than most substitutes. Another important benefit of the program is the separation of policy for infants/toddlers and preschoolers (Bushouse, 2009). It prepares children for better performance in kinder garden and later on in schools. Universal preschools also help the non-English speaking children. For example, when non-English speaking start kinder garden, they often lack comprehension just because they do not know the language well enough. There is a very high probability that the school then puts them through special language programs, which can be frustrating and create extra burden for the child. A universal preschool would help such children by developing English language skills early on. An increase in the number of working mothers has resulted in a large number of preschoolers being in some kind of non-parental care. For example, in the state of
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Although these programs are all structured differently, they can provide a guide for policymakers interested in creating a universal preschool program in Minnesota (LeMire, 2009, p.1) Universal preschool is an international movement intended to provide preschool education to all irrespective of the barriers created by cast, race, gender, or wealth.
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