The concept of investment in children is both intuitive and appealing. The relevance of welfare and education of children is applicable to any political and social context and aligns well with the fundamental psychological and social values of humanity. The following paper provides an overview of areas consistent with the concept and indicates gaps in their practical applications by exploring the manifestations of its erosion.
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Manifestations of the Concept
The concept of children investment can be traced back to the early theories of education. Most prominently, the child-centered approach to learning conceived from the aggregated notions of Comenius, Rousseau, Locke, Dewey, and Montessori, among others, is based on the ideas about the importance of exploration, the focus on real experiences and real-life tasks, and care for children starting as early as possible (Platz & Arellano, 2011).
These ideas can be detected in various modern approaches to what can be considered investment in children. In the broader context, the mentioned ideas imply care for the unborn and children, the family role, involvement in education, etc. The aim of investment in children is to provide the essential grounds for the further development of society based on talents and abilities nurtured in the growing generation.
There are numerous arguments that can be invoked to support the importance of such investment. From the educational standpoint, the exposure to experiences grants superior results for children’s academic performance in the school setting. Even more importantly, it determines their success in the future and, by extension, allows for improvement of the potential prospects of the community and the nation (Cooper, Moore, Powers, Cleveland, & Greenberg, 2014).
Both outcomes resemble the concept of return on investment that is considered by Morrison (2015) as “human capital, rational for child care, preschools, and other services” (p. 121). The promotion of education and associated scientific and technical progress, development of humanitarian approaches to communities, as well as some other potential innovations present a rather beneficial outcome of investment in children.
Even more prominently, a growing body of research provides evidence of direct economic improvement associated with investment in children. A study by Engle et al. (2011) evaluated the effects of early interventions on the later development of preschool children. Among other things, the researchers observed a significant increase in future wages among individuals exposed to preschool enrollment.
The effect ranged from $6 to $17 per dollar invested and, according to the modest estimates, promised long-term economic benefits of $11 to $34 billion (Engle et al., 2011). The mentioned effects resulted from the interventions associated with educational media and high-quality programs elaborated specifically to contribute to the promotion of early childhood development. More to the point, such an approach is likely to facilitate easy access to learning and also eradicate poverty and the related poor nutrition. As stated by Engle et al. (2011), the presented interventions and evaluations were made on the basis of the simulation model, yet they reflect the essence of the current situation.
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Another aspect of child care that can be considered an investment and can be traced back to early theories is healthcare for unborn and newborn children (Platz & Arellano, 2011). According to Grimm (2010), there is an indirect relationship between the reduction in child mortality and the long-term increase in the country’s GDP. This evidence shows that investment in the future also relates to politics and needs to be considered by politics on a large scale.
The existing inequalities in the field of education and health care create the additional difficulties for middle-income and low-income populations that make an adverse effect on their standard of living along with the country’s well-being in general. In turn, this is likely to cause misunderstanding between citizens and the government. In addition, the welfare of the population is also related to the availability of equal opportunities in child healthcare as well as the quality of education of children and their parents (Grimm, 2010). Thus, the impact of investment in children is observable in political, social, and economic contexts.
As for the family context, it is significant to claim that that the view of children as investment implies that parents will benefit from their children once the former would not be able to care for themselves. Another potential perspective assumes that parents may be proud of their children due to their achievements, presenting them to others as the so-called “property”. It goes without saying that any parents are proud of their child, yet such a demonstration and glorification is considered to be biased to some extent.
Speaking of the erosion of children as investment, it is of great importance to point out that in an attempt to promote children early education, it is possible to disserve them. With the reference to the medieval epoch, Platz and Arellano (2011) argue that “with regard to early schooling, Comenius was very concerned about the potentially harmful effects of excessive early education” (p. 58). However, these assumptions are not always followed in the modern environment which characterized by the desire to develop children as soon as possible.
Despite the academic consensus on the matter, there is evidence of deterioration of the investment concept. A report by Sorenson (2014) outlines the steady trend of decline in state spending and a consequent drop in the number of children receiving necessary care. According to Sorenson (2014), such situation inevitably leads to numerous adverse outcomes in the business setting and, by extension, undermines economic performance.
Furthermore, the quality of health care and education also seems to be insufficient to meet the established standard and ensure the population with the appropriate and timely services. At this point, it needs to be clarified that early childhood refers to the period of the very formation of psychological, physical, and emotional basics that are critical to the further lives of children. The deficiencies in child care preserve their ability to manifest themselves even in the adult period.
It is especially observable on the example of the child care system initiated for low-income population in Michigan. According to data presented by Sorenson (2014), “the average annual cost of full-time is over $10,000, which is nearly half of the state median income for a single mother, and 13% of the median income of a married couple” (p. 4). The lack of access to child care becomes evident in the view of the above statistics. Such a situation occurs as a result of the decline in economic support from the state along with the growing costs for health care equipment and services. The low subsidy eligibility levels also serve as the indicator for the decline in child care accessibility. In effect, many parents are forced to address to the unlicensed experts whose quality cannot be guaranteed.
The similar situation was identified in the report of the National Children’s Bureau (2017). The inquiry detected several shortcomings of the countrywide investment efforts. Most notably, an overwhelming majority of senior managers in child care stated their inability to provide the necessary care to children in need due to funding and resource shortages (National Children’s Bureau, 2017).
The report states that this inability is caused by the increased demand for social and health services within the last five years. The number of children in need also raises steadily, as stated by the National Children’s Bureau (2017), thus setting new challenges for the system, both local and countrywide authorities. The evidence suggests that there is a need to develop specific measures, allowing the address the above-mentioned issues or at least mitigating their effects.
As can be seen from the information above, there is an apparent gap between the theoretical implications of benefits of investment into children and the compliance with the formulated statements. Thus, in order to ensure the economic, social, and cultural welfare of the state, it is crucial to review the policies related to the areas of investment in the future. More to the point, it is necessary to focus on the problem in a comprehensive manner, embracing all the provisions that were discussed earlier in this paper, to come up with the most relevant and reliable decision. In particular, such an alignment is expected to provide stability and sustainability of the social and economic progress and therefore should be considered a top priority.
Cooper, B. R., Moore, J. E., Powers, C. J., Cleveland, M., & Greenberg, M. T. (2014). Patterns of early reading and social skills associated with academic success in elementary school. Early Education and Development, 25(8), 1248-1264.
Engle, P. L., Fernald, L. C., Alderman, H., Behrman, J., O’Gara, C., Yousafzai, A.,… Iltus, S. (2011). Strategies for reducing inequalities and improving developmental outcomes for young children in low-income and middle-income countries. The Lancet, 378(9799), 1339-1353.
Grimm, M. (2010). Does inequality in health impede growth? ISS Working Paper Series/General Series, 501, 1-31.
Morrison, G. S. (2015). Early childhood education today (13th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
National Children’s Bureau. (2017). No good options: Report of the inquiry into children’s social care in England. Web.
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Platz, D., & Arellano, J. (2011). Time tested early childhood theories and practices. Education, 132(1), 54-63.
Sorenson, P. (2014). Failure to invest in high-quality child care hurts children and state’s economy. Web.