How important is preschool?

Some say life is a continual learning process, and one thing that primes us for learning is preschool, by definition an introduction or preparation for structured academia. I'm guessing most people don't think or care about preschool unless their own child is in it or about to attend. But it's something that most people in the U.S. experienced and affects all of us in that it sets the foundation of the education system, and an investment in prospective contributions to the economy. Although I'm not an expert in education, as someone who went to preschool and spent a majority of my life in school, I'd say preschool is important and something we should be concerned about.

Today, I went to a University of California Public Policy Center lunch lecture where a professor discussed his research on school readiness and implications for public policy on preschool. The Professor addressed studies of preschool interventions and whether early educational interventions extended benefits into adulthood. A study showed that more intense preschool programs were not super helpful in math, and generally that early gains were not very sustainable. The professor essentially suggested that while basic skills such as numeracy and literacy should be taught, that socioemotional skills should also be addressed.

I agree to some extent, based on my own experience in preschool. My very first day of school was traumatic. I couldn't talk to any of the other kids, and cried like a baby until my mom picked me up. I grew up in a Cantonese speaking household, but lived in a predominantly Caucasian community, so when I was 4 I didn't speak English. I don't personally recall this memory, but my mom has told me this story so many times that I can envision it like it was yesterday. I guess I eventually learned English, and my only other memory of preschool is singing on a stage with a bunch of other kids because my parents recorded it and I remember seeing it on VHS (this tape should've been my audition for High School Musical.)

As an Asian-American growing up in a predominantly Caucasian community, my preschool experience was assimilation, at the cost of me discarding a focus on my native language. Kids just want to "fit in," and the very foundation for that is being able to communicate with each other. For me, preschool opened me up to the real world, where I would encounter people other than my family that I would interact with and I would be forced to socialize with similarly aged individuals.

If I had any input on preschool public policy, it would be to emphasize embracing individuality while equally touting the importance of contributing to the community: both goals are not mutually exclusive. In economics, I learned that specialization and trading commodities results in greater efficiency, and the principle applies to people being who they are instead of being forced into a profession or group that they are not meant to be a part of. If it's not in academic curriculum, I will do my damn best to teach my future kid(s) that they can be themselves and part of a greater good.


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