"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, December 3, 2012

Early Childhood Learning; A View from the United States

If the United States Congress does not arrive at an agreement on how to tackle the country's budget problems before Christmas, there will be automatic cuts in government spending. One of the programs that will suffer substantially from these dramatic sequestration of funds is early childhood learning. The following is an excerpt from a web page of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC):
Unless Congress and the White House take another path, starting January 2, 2013, there would be automatic cuts of roughly 8% to domestic discretionary programs– including Head Start, child care, K-12 education, WIC, early intervention and many others. This would mean roughly 100,000 children losing Early Head Start or Head Start and 80,000 children losing child care assistance.
In quite specific terms, US Senator Harkin offers the details of these cuts in his report, "Under Threat: Sequestration's Impact on Nondefense Jobs and Services". The following are specific cuts in the Department of Health and Human Services' budget that will directly affect early childhood learning.

  • 96,179 fewer low income children will be served by the preschool Head Start program
  • 80,000 fewer children will be served due to cuts in Child Care and Development Block Grants
  • 5,000,000 families will lose support for maternal and child health care services
  • 211,958 children will not be vaccinated due to cuts in Childhood Immunization Grants
There are other dramatic cuts that will affect both K-12 and higher education. Since early childhood programs in the United States are very much dependent on the federal government, the "fiscal cliff" cuts do have severe consequences on these programs.

Without the looming cuts, early childhood learning and health care already require contributions from the private sector. The following video from PBS shows how pediatricians in Bellevue Hospital in New York City are trying to contribute:




To those viewing this video from the Philippines, it is quite obvious that the US situation is still far way better than the predicament of kindergarten, early childhood learning, and child health care in the Philippines. To hear someone sighing that a child gets to see a pediatrician only 10 times from 6 months to 5 years of age can surely turn heads.  Many children in the Philippines do not see a pediatrician, many children in the Philippines do not see any book.

The United States also greatly differs from the Philippines in another aspect. US News reports that the number of foreign born graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and MATH (STEM) is rapidly rising:
Foreign-born people account for 16.5 percent of the U.S. population 25 and older, and a similar proportion of the segment of that population with bachelor's degrees or higher (15.8 percent).
But 33 percent of all graduates with engineering degrees are foreign-born, along with 27 percent of graduates in computers, math, and statistics, and 24 percent in physical sciences.
The Philippines clearly does not have these numbers. The Philippines does not have the luxury of attracting foreign-born individuals. The Philippines has to rely on its own native born citizens to fill the STEM needs of the nation. It is therefore far more crucial that the country pays attention to early child health and learning.
Elementary school children doing laundry in the Philippines

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