The Difficulty of Implementing Universal Pre-K, According to Brazil

According to Governing, Brazil is one of the few countries that mandates early education. Over the course of the past few years, however, the country has quickly discovered the difficulties of implementing universal preschool, as described by Governing:

[In Brazil,] . . . national lawmakers even enshrined the right to preschool in the constitution, the latest in a series of reforms spanning three decades. Those changes have led to gradual gains in preschool enrollment, from about 52 percent in 1999 to 81 percent in 2009. . . But despite those gains. . . [m]any of the schools fail to meet regulations, and the quality of teachers varies dramatically. Enrollment rates differ by state and region. Schools are sparse in rural areas. . . The cumulative result is an uneven system that still isn’t adequately reaching the children who stand to benefit the most from early education.

In the US, President Obama’s early learning agenda invests in and strengthens early childhood education, care, and development.  According to the White House website,

. . . the President will propose a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of high-quality early learning for a child – beginning at birth and continuing to age 5. . . The Preschool for All initiative will improve quality and expand access to preschool, through a partnership with all 50 states, to provide all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds with high-quality preschool, while encouraging states to serve additional four-year-olds from middle-class families. The initiative also promotes access to full-day kindergarten and high-quality early education programs for children under age four.

This year in Maryland, Governor O’Malley set aside $4.3 million to expand pre-K coverage in the state through a competitive grant program, included in The Prekindergarten Expansion Act of 2014. State and local programs like these will be needed to supplement national efforts, according to Governing.  As described,

If the Brazilian experience is any barometer, a national mandate would not eliminate the need for American cities like San Antonio to experiment with implementing public preschool. . . Rio de Janeiro, under Costin, wrote its own preschool curriculum and hired new teachers with prior training in early education. School administrators in Rio learned that some parents wouldn’t drop off their children for day care during the week, either because schools were too far away or because families could ask a grandparent to watch their children on workdays. The city decided to set up Saturday programs where parents could receive training and staff could monitor children’s brain development and play habits. “It’s not easy to establish a new educational system,” Costin says. “We have to have a mix of solutions for different families.”

For more information, see the full story from Governing.