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Early Childhood Education (ECE)

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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > D, E > Early Childhood Education (ECE)

Early Childhood Education (ECE) 

Educational activities and programs that are provided to children of pre-school age.

(Baker, Toronto, PPG2012)


One of the most important issues in the area of child policy is whether and how governments should subsidize early childhood education programs for children who are of pre-school age, which is typically defined as being between 0-5 years old.

Proponents of ECE contend that participation in these programs and activities can bring a host of benefits to the children involved, their families, and society as a whole. In addition to promoting "school readiness" and accelerating the cognitive development of children, ECE supporters contend that government support for these programs can have a positive impact on parental, and particularly maternal, employment levels. Furthermore, these proponents often argue that early childhood education is a wise investment in society's human capital, which will lead to superior economic performance in future years.

Those who argue against the government subsidization of ECE programs argue that the long-term benefits of these programs for social and cognitive development are not as clear as ECE proponents suggest. Some critics of government spending on ECE also argue that it is unfair to subsidize the choices of those who wish to make use of professional childcare rather than pursuing other options for the care and instruction of their small children.


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© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance