Educating our children: the importance of pre-school education

In this blog and elsewhere I spend a good bit of my time arguing for the proper resourcing of higher education, and I shall no doubt do so again. But I would not wish to convey the impression that there are no urgent resourcing needs in other parts of the education system; indeed my support for the return of tuition fees is in part driven by my conviction that increased public funding is not necessarily needed most urgently in my sector.

Probably the area of education which needs most attention and gets least is pre-school. There are many studies – including this one – that suggest that investment in pre-school education and childcare has a particularly strong impact for disadvantaged children. If they have access to high quality provision at that age, they will be more likely to complete school and go on to higher education, but are also less likely to experience social problems and become criminal offenders. It has in fact been argued that every dollar spent on pre-school education saves seven dollars for the taxpayer later. It is a good investment and an important contribution to social stability and welfare.

Despite that, this country makes hardly any investment in pre-school education at all. Over recent years there have been some policy discussions and the establishment of specialist units within government to consider pre-school provision, but actual initiatives are few and far between and for most children no state-provided establishments exist. The National Competitiveness Council has from time to time drawn attention to this deficit, but so far without any government response.

Even at a time of scarce public resources, this should be a government priority, and currently it isn’t. It is to be hoped that the Minister for Education will give special and early consideration to appropriate measures that will make available this very important support for Ireland’s young people.

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4 Comments on “Educating our children: the importance of pre-school education”


  1. Hello Ferdinand,
    Maggie here writing from Provence.
    When I was a young mother of a son at NDNSP primary school in Glasnevin (David, graduating this autumn at DCU), I would ruefully reflect upon the fact that I might be teaching a group of ten undergraduates the intricacies of metaphorical modulation in French to English translation up on a spanking new campus, while Cathy, my son’s excellent teacher, was trying to teach thirty-seven five-year-olds to read down the road in a draughty prefab. I was probably earning almost twice her salary too. and I seemed to be endlessly baking for a bring-and-buy fundraiser or recycling my books for a “fête”.
    So I can but agree with what you say about funding early education. However, taking a more global view, illiteracy rates in many countries give far more pause for thought. Until or unless the concept of the nation is as attenuated in cultural matters as it is in economic ones (vide TNCs), then politicians, like university presidents, will still be looking after their own patches…

  2. Perry Share ITSligo Says:

    I suppose abolition in the budget of the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education (CECDE) – the key agency in the devlopment of good quality early childhood services in the country – is a good indication of where our government sits in relation to early childhood education.

  3. Kelly L. Says:

    I totally agree that preschool should be of high importance in education. I am a kindergarten teacher in the United States at a school that has 94% student population considered at-risk. I see first hand the importance of providing an opportunity for all students to attend preschool. Many of our students come in far below kindergarten readiness and struggle not only with these academics but behaviors too. It is very important for our governments to aid in making this resources available for all families.


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