For many years, Early Childhood Education was regarded simply as ‘a phase’, a filler when young children get ready for the next-step of elementary schools. However, during recent years, people have started to notice a change–day care and kindergarten fees soaring sky-high; 6 year olds owning mobile devices; and parents trying to enrol their children in ‘good’ kindergartens years early–this ‘just a phase’ perception is gradually self-debunking.
The changes that have occurred within the realm of Early Childhood Education (ECE) in recent decades are hard to ignore, and they have certainly sparked conversation among sociologists, educational experts and last but maybe most importantly, parents. 'How do we raise a well-adjusted and happy child in today’s world from the outset?' 'Why does raising a child costs so much?' 'Are these changes merely new wine in an old bottle?'
With these questions in mind, we talk to Terris King II, an early childhood educator, philosopher, consultant and enterpreneur who is also a Kindergarten teacher at Shanghai American School.
Why is Early Childhood Education getting more and more expensive?
As a Kindergarten teacher, I hope the world is waking up and acknowledging the importance of Early Childhood Education. I believe the increase in tuition prices is a monetary reflection of its importance, which mankind has continuously supported. In the here and now cash is king and I believe the shift is about economics and the change of social structure. There is a demand with more woman entering and dominating the workforce. This creates a need for daily childcare. With the economic boom in Shanghai came a rise in the cost of living across the board, including all types of tuition-based education.
How is the high cost justified?
Education is the only sure investment that leads to upward mobility when it comes to individuals, families, communities and nations. Parents who are looking to invest top dollar in their child’s education are often products of their parent’s investments. What is consistent is that parents will invest their last dime to give their children an edge on future competition. Families justify the cost for various reasons including safety, developing a robust social academic network and preparing their children for higher education in specific geographic regions.
For families that cannot afford a high tuition, what are the options?
“Education is not the preparation of life; education is life itself.” This quote by John Dewey made in his My Pedagogical Creed, is how I approach my profession. With that philosophy in mind it is important to remember when investing in your child’s education, school is only one part of their life preparation. Time spent outside of school is just as important as time spent in school. If you can’t afford the top schools, invest in experiences that inform your child’s perspective. Experience new cultures to expand your child’s general knowledge, enhance their interest in the arts and cultivate healthy competitive sportsmanship through athletics. All these things can be done on a budget and Shanghai is full of amazing programs.
Is expensive always better?
No, but expensive should get you a few perks. In my experience, the more you pay the more power you should have as a parent. In top private schools, parents have autonomy only money can buy. This autonomy creates avenues for families to advocate for their child. Expensive schools usually have small student to teacher ratios, which provide students with more one-on-one and small group instruction time. These schools also have the resources to provide children with the top learning tools and cutting-edge technology on the market.
What aspects should parents look at when they are on the hunt for quality ECE?
As a family, your core values should align with the mission and vision of the school. You should agree with the discipline strategies, the ways the school fosters child interest and how they will develop your child’s moral framework. When choosing a quality ECE institution consider if the children are engaged, if the teachers enjoy being around children and try interacting with their alumni. Ask yourself, are they the type of person you want your child to become?
In addition to the education system, the cost of other aspects of childcare has also soared over the last decade. What do you think of this trend?
ECE is a billion-dollar industry with companies selling learning tools, furniture, curriculum and the list goes on. What you realize about education is there are no new ‘revolutionary’ ideas, just recycled, refurbished and recreated products from the past, like Jordan retros or musical remixes. The education systems, in collaboration with business, try to push new formulas. However, ECE will always be about the connection between home and school and the collaboration between teacher and parents for the benefit of young children.