Norway: Scale-up of universal ECEC led to improved children’s language skills

Norway scaled up universal Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) from age 1.

The consequences of Norway universal ECEC scale-up for children’s early language skills were investigated by ISOTIS researcher Henrik Daae Zachrisson (University of Oslo) and colleagues.

The focus on early language skills was driven by evidence that differences in early language help explain a considerable portion of the differences in school achievement between children from lower and higher income backgrounds during elementary school. Additionally, early caregiving environments are critical to developing early language skills.

Results indicated the scale-up of universal ECEC led to improved language skills, particularly for children from low-income backgrounds.

According to the authors, the results from this study help to inform the debate about the merits of universal policies,  which are designed to serve all children, versus targeted policies, which exclusively serve children in vulnerable living situations. The results may also provoke discussion about the benefits of beginning ECEC programs as early as infancy.

The authors concluded that the study increased evidence that nations can implement publically subsidized and regulated ECEC programs for very young children at scale with a potential benefit of narrowing achievement gaps between children.

The study is described in the article "Estimating the consequences of Norway’s national scale-up of Early Childhood Education and Care (beginning in infancy) for early language skills", published in the journal AERA Open.

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