How quality early learning benefits children, families and our whole society

Families are under increasing pressure both to make ends meet and have quality time to raise their children well. The good news is that quality early learning in early childhood education and care and preschool can be the best support available to parents to help their children be able to succeed at school and in life.

Giving children the opportunity to attend quality early childhood education for at least two days a week helps them to understand and manage their emotions, learn social skills like how to share and take turns as well as how to focus so they are able to handle the structure of the school environment.


Numerous studies have proven that high quality early childhood education can deliver long-term benefits that extend into adulthood. For example:

  • Children who attend a quality early childhood program in the year before school are up to 40 per cent ahead of their peers by the time they reach Year 3 in primary school (Warren & Haisken-DeNew, 2013).
  • UK research found that children who attended quality early learning had higher grades in school, were better able to manage their behaviour and had lower levels of hyperactivity. The longer they spent in early learning, and the higher the quality, the better their grades were and the more likely they were to continue academic studies (Waldren, 2017).

Early learning: Social and economic benefits

Early learning is also a powerful intervention for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. International research shows that disadvantaged children who attend quality early learning for at least two days per week are:

  • more likely to finish school
  • more likely to find higher paying jobs
  • more likely to own their own homes
  • less likely to be involved in crime as adults
  • less likely to need support with emotional and behavioural problems.

Modelling by economist James Heckman (Cunha, Heckman, Lochner & Masterov, 2006) shows that the most effective time to invest in education, to deliver the greatest return on investment, is at the early learning stage—before children start school.

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'Early education prevents achievement gaps, it boosts school achievement, presents better health outcomes, improves our workforce, increases our productivity and reduces the need for costly social spending'

James J. Heckman, Nobel Laureate Economist, 2012

Read Heckman Equation factsheet on the social and economic benefits of investing in early learning


Economic Benefits in Australia

Participating in early learning adds to Australia's future prosperity by increasing our Gross Domestic Product. Research by Price Waterhouse Coopers found that the participation of vulnerable children in quality early learning would add $13.3 billion to our GDP by 2050.

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