Pre-kindergarten is a form of early childhood education. It is usually offered as a formal educational program for children aged three or four. Pre-kindergarten can take in many different settings, including public schools, private and public nursery schools, religious institutions and child care facilities. The goal of pre-kindergarten is to prepare children for starting kindergarten the following year.
It is not compulsory for children to attend pre-kindergarten in the United States. In fact, different states provide different programs and facilities. Depending on the area where the family live, either the state, school district, or the parents of the children will decide whether or not the children can attend a pre-K program.
Pre-kindergarten is different from day care or child care, as it is more focused on academics and skill building. Most day care and child care centers are focused on just looking after children while their parents are absent. Not only do pre-K teachers focus on academics, but they also help develop children emotionally, socially and physically. Most pre-K facilities follow an educational curriculum that outlines instructional activities to meet these goals.
As pre-K is not compulsory, most families must apply for places within their local programs. Depending on the state, different criteria are used to determine whether a child can be placed or not. For example, Tennessee runs a voluntary pre-kindergarten program for all four year olds. It is completely voluntary and up to the parents, communities and school districts to decide whether they want and need a pre-K program. Other states and districts have distinct requirements for application to pre-K, and many do not have the number of places to match the number of children in the area.
There is some controversy over the fact that pre-K schooling is not mandatory in all states. In many states, pre-kindergarten remains reserved for high income families who can afford private schooling or those families targeted for public-assistance due to low incomes. Many experts, educational professionals and policymakers are calling for pre-K to be funded for all children so that everyone can reap the rewards of beginning their education early.
A great deal of research has been carried out into effects on a child’s education from attending a pre-K program. Most brain development occurs before the age of five, so starting education earlier is beneficial to all children. Studies have shown that children that attend pre-kindergarten are less likely to be held back during their schooling and they are more likely to graduate from high school.