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EDUCATION REPORT – August 15, 2002: U.S. Early Childhood Education - 2002-08-14

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

About forty years ago, only five percent of American children who were three or four years old attended early education programs. Today, about two-thirds of the children of that age go to preschools, nursery schools or daycare centers with educational programs. Many education experts say this is a good situation. They say young children who have some kind of preschool education do much better when they attend school.

Young children in preschool programs learn colors and numbers. They identify common objects and letters of the alphabet to prepare them for reading. They sing and play games that use numbers and maps. They learn to cooperate with teachers and other children. Many preschool programs include activities to help young children learn about the world around them. For example, children visit places like zoos, museums and fire and police stations.

After preschool, most American children attend kindergarten in public schools. Most children start kindergarten at about age five. Many American kindergartens now require skills taught in early education programs. So children who have not attended a preschool program may not be ready for kindergarten.

Many families, however, lack enough money to send their children to private nursery schools or preschools. Such schools may cost several thousand dollars a year, as much as a public university.

To help poor families, the government operates an education program for young children called Head Start. Studies have shown that many children from poor families do not do well in school. Studies also have shown that children in Head Start programs perform equally well or better than other children when they start school. But the government currently is providing Head Start with enough money to serve only about sixty percent of the children who need this program.

Educators have expressed concern that some early childhood education programs are not good enough. The United States has about eighty-thousand preschools, nursery schools and daycare centers. The National Association for the Education of Young Children studies these schools. The association says it has approved only about ten percent of the preschools in the country. Experts say American children need more and better preschool education.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Steve Ember.