Artful dodging

Trouble overseas. A six-year study of the United Kingdom's early years education, a pre-school initiative that started in 1997 and has cost taxpayers over $40 billion, has found, according to the Telegraph, "that children's development and skills as they enter primary school are no different than they were in 2000." Just this month, though, the country's "minister for children" announced an $8 billion expansion of the Sure Start program--yeah, the one that hasn't worked. The Guardian jumped to defend the venture in a recent editorial. But columnist Alice Miles, writing in the Times, said that the dismal results are to be expected: "In my experience, most playgroups and nurseries generally do little of anything but babysitting." These government-funded services should do more, of course, but even a cursory glance at the official frameworks meant to guide them makes one's eyes glaze over: "aspects" divided into "components" divided into even more subheads. Curiously missing is anything of academic worth. You want an early-childhood program that works? Make learning the focus.

"Unsure start for those who most need help," by Alice Miles, The Times, August 29, 2007

"Early learning education plan a failure," by Gary Cleland, The Telegraph, August 28, 2007

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