Comparative World Bank data on enrollment for Early Childhood Education (ECE) worldwide and in Cambodia reveal that the kingdom is behind in ECE attendance, both for the well-to-do families and the rural poor. Only 40% of the financially secure families enroll their children in organized ECE programs and this means that a lot of human potential is being ignored.
Preschool education can only help a child to develop according to age appropriate milestones and learning objectives. Besides being exposed to letters, numbers, and shapes, the child also gains in maturity through improved social and emotional skills that are a result of school enrollment and participation. Why is this important? Because preschool attendance means children are more likely to start primary school at the right age and research has shown that those that enroll in preschool programs are better prepared and thus less likely to repeat grades due to short-comings in graded assessments and skills.
The pathways to positive future social and educational outcomes are shaped during the early years, which make it critical to include an early childhood education (ECE) program from an early age. Gone are the days when not having any formal education until age 7 or 8 is acceptable. Children who start late have no exposure to books, writing, etc., and are thus at a disadvantage even before their academic careers have started. These children often fall behind and run a higher risk of having to repeat grades and thus lose time and human potential.
A recent World Bank study found that investing in young children through ECE projects is one of the smartest investments a country (or family) can make to address inequality and break the cycle of poverty and improve outcomes later in life. Furthermore, a 20-year study of children in Jamaica by Nobel laureate James Heckman, Paul Gertler and others showed that early stimulation interventions for infants and toddlers increased their future earnings by 25 percent— equivalent to adults who grew up in wealthier households. Thus, there is overwhelming real-world evidence that a preschool program with a creative curriculum gives children a head-start to success in primary school and beyond.
Early childhood is the most significant time for a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. And that is why preschools are so important as they give children vital learning and development opportunities in their early years. A quality early childhood education program that provides a developmentally appropriate curriculum has the ability to aid children in developing valuable cognitive skills at their appropriate age. Building on children's existing skills and guiding them in acquiring new skills and knowledge, early childhood education ensures children achieve their age-appropriate developmental milestones by helping to improve school performance, sharpen thinking and attention skills, as well as lowering the probability of becoming a school dropout.