The state of early development that enables an individual child to engage in and benefit from educational instruction when they first enter primary school.
(Baker, Toronto, PPG2012)
School readiness is an important concept in policy debates surrounding the extent to which governments should subsidize early childhood education (ECE). Many proponents of government subsidies for ECE programs argue that participation in such programs enhances school readiness.
Existing studies suggest that participation in high quality ECE programs does improve school readiness. Children who have attended such programs have been found, on average, to perform better on cognitive tests administered at the beginning of first grade, than children who have not been exposed to professional ECE, even after controlling for potentially confounding variables such as family income and maternal education.
The importance of school readiness as a predictor of positive long term social and cognitive development is, however, more controversial. Some longer-term studies have suggested that the school readiness improvements associated with ECE participation do not lead to superior social and cognitive development in the medium-long term. This finding has been somewhat more consistent for children who are raised in middle class families.
The extent to which improved school readiness leads to better social and cognitive development outcomes later in childhood is a crucially important question for policymakers. The question of whether or not ECE spending is a prudent long-term investment in human capital, largely hinges on whether the school readiness gains associated with ECE participation can be sustained and contribute to better developmental outcomes later in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Fuller, Bruce. (2007) Standardizing Childhood: The Political and Cultural Struggle over Early Education. California: Stanford University Press.