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Reading between the lines: A closer look at the effectiveness of early childhood education policy to reduce inequality in Argentina

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  • Paglayan, Agustina

Abstract

This study looks more closely at Argentina’s early childhood education policy, to determine whether it “ensures quality education and equal opportunities, without regional disparities and socio-economic inequities” –the main purpose of education policy in that country. In particular, the study examines how public kindergartens’ effect on children’s early literacy development compares to the effect of their alternative, private kindergartens. Panel data collected between 2004 and 2006 by Argentina’s urban household survey is used to estimate a logit model for the probability of knowing how to read and write by the end of first grade. Estimations take into consideration the complex design of the survey data employed. The validity of the results obtained is further checked by the use of quasi-experimental econometric techniques. The study finds that, net of important individual, family, community and geographic characteristics, attending a public kindergarten has some effect on the probability that a child will know how to read and write by the end of first grade, but attending a private kindergarten has a more substantial effect on this probability. In turn, the analysis finds that knowing how to read and write by the end of first grade reduces the probability of repeating that grade. Perhaps more worryingly, the quality gap between public and private kindergartens is found to be larger in the poorest regions of the country, as well as among the poorest families. These findings are relevant to education policymaking in Argentina, where efforts have focused on expanding the coverage of preschool services, largely disregarding that there is a fundamental problem of unequal opportunities among children in terms of access to high-quality early childhood education. Specific policy recommendations that could improve the quality of public preschools are suggested, taking into account the political difficulty to introduce profound reforms in the education system.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 13875.

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Date of creation: May 2008
Date of revision: May 2008
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:13875

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Keywords: early childhood education; Argentina; education quality; public preschool; private preschool; education inequality;

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  1. James J. Heckman, 2000. "Policies to Foster Human Capital," JCPR Working Papers 154, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  2. Schady, Norbert, 2006. "Early childhood development in Latin America and the Caribbean," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3869, The World Bank.
  3. Janet Currie, 2001. "Early Childhood Education Programs," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 213-238, Spring.
  4. Samuel Berlinski & Sebastian Galiani, 2004. "The effect of a large expansion of pre-primary school facilities on preschool attendance and maternal employment," IFS Working Papers W04/30, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  5. Berlinski, Samuel & Galiani, Sebastian & Gertler, Paul, 2009. "The effect of pre-primary education on primary school performance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 219-234, February.
  6. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance & Masterov, Dimitriy V., 2005. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," IZA Discussion Papers 1675, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Ruthanne Deutsch, 1998. "How Early Childhood Interventions Can Reduce Inequality: An Overview of Recent Findings," IDB Publications 50998, Inter-American Development Bank.
  8. Jere R. Behrman & Yingmei Cheng & Petra E. Todd, 2004. "Evaluating Preschool Programs When Length of Exposure to the Program Varies: A Nonparametric Approach," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 108-132, February.
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