kids with books 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The government decided to give “free” education from age three to encourage
Many claim that today it doesn’t pay for both
parents to work because of the cost of daycare. The advocates of public
preschool also argue that early formal education is an investment that pays off
in the future by increasing the chance our children will have to succeed in
school and to become productive member of our society.
Although the goal
of the reform may be laudable, it is not clear that it will benefit our
children, and may in the long have harmful effects. Many scientific studies
around the world have failed to show a direct correlation between attending
school at an early age and succeeding on high school matriculation
The few studies that found a positive effect also found that early
education had no meaningful long-term effects on the cognitive, social and
emotional development of children. After less than two years, there was no
difference between children who attended preschool and those who didn’t. In
fact, many psychologists and education specialists warn that preschool education
is inappropriate for some children and can hurt their development. It is also
very clear that the quality of the preschool education plays a dramatic role in
the final outcome.
It is doubtful that the Education Ministry will
succeed with regard to preschool education when it has dramatically and
repeatedly failed with regard to the education of our children from 1st to 12th
grade. It is no secret that Israeli students score lower than many of their OECD
counterparts on international standardized tests or that Israelis schools are
plagued by violence, lack of discipline, and underachievement.
survey sponsored by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies and administered
by Daraf in 2010, 74 percent of Israelis are dissatisfied (31%) or strongly
dissatisfied (42%) with the current education system. Will putting our
three-yearold children into the very education system that cannot educate
her/him properly from age six improve his/her chance to succeed academically and
socially? It is also worth remembering that “free” education only means “paid
for by taxes” instead of out of parents’ pockets. To finance preschool programs
the government will have to cut other government expenses, raise taxes, or
borrow money. Politicians will not relinquish the opportunity to be photographed
with children and the increased popularity they will enjoy from “giving” to
children. However, those same children will one day be adults, pay taxes and
foot the bill of their so-called “free” early education.
It is also
likely that the expense per child will be higher in the “free” school system
than in the private market of early education. How many layers of bureaucracy,
teacher training and infrastructure building will have to be founded through our
taxes even before the first hour of teaching is given to our
Today, parents of young children have many options for early
education, ranging from Savta, home-run mishpachtons to more formal private
Because each provider of preschool services has to compete to
attract students, they need to give quality services. It is not unusual, for a
private preschool or a home-run day care to close its doors because parents
aren’t satisfied. When was the last time a failing public school was closed and
its teachers sent home for failing to educate students properly? A dynamic
private preschool system also allows for diversity in language of instruction,
curriculum, hours of teaching, day structure and many more parameters that
parents judge to be important.
Unfortunately, if the government offers
“free” education in public schools, it will be almost impossible for private
providers to survive and the diversity will disappear forcing each young child
into a predefined learning mold.
It is often argued that children from
low socioeconomic strata don’t have access to quality preschool and therefore
are at a disadvantage with respect to their well-off peers from the start.
Unfortunately, as happens now in public schools, poorer children will end up in
the worst public preschools and their probability of success will remain much
lower than children from better economic backgrounds.
One way to help
poor children would be to give them the chance to attend good private daycares
and not failing public ones. Clearly, financial aid could be made available,
either through tax credits (or negative tax income) when at least one parent
works or grants when the household doesn’t count a working parent.
grants, also called vouchers, could be distributed not only to poor families but
also to middle class families at no extra cost to the taxpayer. In the current
reform, the Education Ministry will have to allocate a certain amount of money
for each child registered in a “free” public preschool. The same amount of money
could be given directly to the parents in a form of a voucher.
parent would then pay the preschool they choose to send their children to with
In a voucher system, parents, regardless of their economic
background will still be able to choose the best daycare option for their
children and go to work. Private preschools will be able to survive, compete and
strive to give good services and the government won’t have to spend more money
building and managing extra public preschools.The writer is the
executive director of the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS)
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