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Good early education 'can deliver long-term benefits in life'

12/04/2017 Joanna

Providing children with a high-quality education during the earliest years of their lives can deliver benefits that last well into their adulthoods, new research has shown.

The US study, carried out by Virginia Tech researchers, is following 96 children who have continuously participated in the Abecedarian Project, an early education programme for at-risk infants and children that started in North Carolina in 1971. The latest follow-up data has offered evidence of the significant impact that a good education can have on a child.

All of the subjects involved in the study received healthcare, nutrition and family support through social services, but one group also received five years of early care and education, with teaching taking place for five days a week beginning at six weeks of age, and continuing until the child started nursery school.

It was shown that children who received the educational treatment were more successful socially, with close relationships with their mothers and fathers extending into middle age. These individuals were also more likely to be employed full-time, as well as being more likely to possess a car, a home or a savings account. 

An important factor was the ability of teachers to tailor educational activities to a child's specific needs, with a focus on naturalistic interactions, the conversational aspect of language and interactive reading. This will ensure the child finds the lessons enjoyable, rather than a chore.

Craig Ramey, a professor and distinguished research scholar of human development at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, said: "We have demonstrated that when we provide vulnerable children and families with really high-quality services - educationally, medically, socially - we have impacts of a large and practical magnitude all the way up to middle age."

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