Early childhood education an important investment

Fostering resilient, sustainable communities means investing in poor kids.

Credit: Flickr / cafemama

Fostering resilient, sustainable communities means investing in poor kids

The Tyee has a great piece in today’s enewsletter about funding cuts to early childhood education in BC by Tom Sandborn.

In Daycare Serving BC’s Poorest Forced to Dump Kids, he points to several studies done both in the US and BC that reveal the importance of investing in early childhood development, both from an economic standpoint and a societal one:


To those who say [reforming] childcare service would be too expensive, advocates like [Fern Jeffries, a community activist working with the parents and staff at Phil Bouvier daycare in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighborhood (Canada’s poorest postal code), which lost funding this summer requiring it cut three staff who worked with special needs kids] respond that massive investment in early learning and development for children at risk is not only the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense. They point to research which says that money put into making at-risk children ready for school leads to significant social savings in terms of better high school completion, less criminal and addiction issues as children grow up, and more economic success for the children who get early support. [Emphasis added]

In terms of fostering the sustainable, resilient city we’d all like to see realized, making the investment in developing young minds that work, that have a sense of security and community support, and that are engendered with a strong sense of boundaries, as can be developed in such early childhood development programs, is paramount.

Beyond fancy new technologies powered by renewable energy sources, freshwater management and food security provisions (yes, all important), at the core of any sustainable society is the people who comprise it.

Perhaps we as a species—fighting for our own survival in these days approaching disastrous climate change impacts—should empower our most vulnerable members to make positive choices, to think critically and cooperatively, to be assimilated as productive members of our society in order to become the valuable problem-solving collaborator-citizens we need them to be, instead of the money-zapping welfare candidates we seem to expect them to become.

Early education wires kids’ brains for critical thought and problem solving at an important stage in their development. And strong minds make for strong leaders, savvy voters and imaginative innovators.

Further, as referenced in Sandborn’s article, the Vancouver Sun published a summary of a paper by Paul Kershaw, Lynell Anderson, Bill Warburton and Clyde Hertzman to be presented to a Business Council of BC economic summit (on September 22) titled Comment: The economic impact of early vulnerability in B.C., which points to the kind of return on investment we can expect:


… young children who are not school-ready are less likely to be job-ready. That’s likely to cost the B.C. economy more than $400 billion over the next 60 years. Internationally unique data at the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), based at UBC, reveal that eliminating unnecessary child vulnerability is 10 times more valuable to the B.C. economy than eliminating the cumulative provincial debt.

Resilient communities are born from within. Neighbourhoods like Strathcona need residents who know the challenges inherent to their area to be part of the solution. Instead of packing them off to jail, we might instead pave avenues toward the jobs of the future. Majora Carter calls it “greening the ghetto.”

So why remove the stepping stones that pave their way toward a better future and a better Vancouver? Why especially at a time of such fiscal woe, when we are reminded again and again that the old economic models that we’ve been jazzing on for the last whatever many years aren’t working.

It’s time to spend our money wisely, with consideration to the big picture. It’s time to make long-term investments, the fruit of which won’t be borne until long after the current government leaves office.

And to determine what should be our budget priorities we have to ask ourselves, what is really important? Is a (wholly unlikely and absolutely fleeting) balanced budget more important than the likelihood of a more productive, able-minded, law-abiding citizenry? Especially when we’ll need creative solutions to the unknown obstacles our carbon-heavy world is soon to face.