Invest in early action now for future economic prosperity says Canadian expert

28 May 2014

Charles_Pascal_Speaking

Governments that invest in high quality early intervention and prevention will reap the benefits of a more prosperous future with diminishing costs on health and welfare expenditures, said University of Toronto’s Professor Charles Pascal at an event hosted by The Benevolent Society in Sydney last night (Tues, 27 May).

“In Ontario, when we looked at how best to reduce poverty, youth violence and welfare costs the number one recommendation for all three was increasing investment in early learning and care.

“We’ve found that investing in high quality early childhood development leads to higher graduation rates in high school that in turn increase the participation rates in post-secondary education and full time employment.”

Research sponsored by the Business Council of British Columbia notes that for every 1% drop in the vulnerability rate of children entering formal schooling, a 1% increase to the GDP will accrue as a result over the working life of each 1% no longer vulnerable.

Ontario implemented Professor Pascal’s recommendation to extend all primary schools to include universal Full-Day Kindergarten for 4 and 5 year olds. Before initiating this change, the vulnerability rate for children starting school was 27%.

Recent analysis of 4 and 5 year olds attending full-day kindergarten found:

  • reduced risks from language and cognitive development from 16.4% down to 4.3% (3 quarters)
  • reduced risks in social competence development from 10.5% to 5.2% (halved)
  • reduced risks in communication skills and knowledge development from 10.5% to 5.6% (halved)

“In Ontario high school graduation rates have increased in the last 8 years from 68% to 84% and our post-secondary participation and graduation rates are now the highest in the OECD community.”

Professor Pascal praised initiatives such as the National Quality Framework on Early Learning.

“Australia has many early years innovations. The gains made with these initiatives will lead to significant future savings if quality early learning continues to receive the support it deserves.

“Long term economic prosperity requires a human capital supply chain that begins with early learning as the bed-rock.” said Professor Pascal.

Anne Hollonds, CEO of The Benevolent Society says:

“In the heat of the current Budget debate, when we know money is tight, it’s a great time to shine a light on how we can get value for money.

“Some of the budget measures seem to be designed to achieve short term savings without recognising the longer term savings and economic growth that comes from investment in supporting young parents in those early years when the foundations of future health, development and wellbeing for children are being laid down.

“It’s mums and dads, especially young parents, who are doing the heavy lifting when it comes to economic growth. They are raising the next generation of workers and tax-payers. All young parents need support for this tough job, and some young parents need extra support because they face extra challenges.

“International and Australian evidence shows that if we invest early, especially in our most vulnerable children and families, the whole economy benefits - with demonstrated reductions in school drop-outs, crime and welfare dependency, and increases in income and employment levels.

“Investment in prevention and early action not only makes common sense, it is proven to make economic sense, so it’s the best way to ensure our future prosperity,” concluded Anne Hollonds.

For more information, visit: www.benevolent.org.au/ActEarly or see the snapshot of our Acting Early, Changing Lives: How prevention and early action saves money and wellbeing report, here.

See Professor Pascal’s submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Development – No 083 http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/133184/sub083-childcare.pdf

Media contacts: Carolin Wenzel 0411 766 682/ Anne Hollonds 0411 382 692

*Charles Pascal is Professor of Applied Psychology & Human Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Charles is also a special advisor to Australia’s Good Start Early Learning organization.

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