The conversation about expanding quality early-age education was halted by the advocacy of “dozens of early childhood educators,” The Hechinger Report outlines. Their campaigns to take online learning away from young children is not based on sound scientific evidence.
According to the report, the mass of educators warn that online preschool programs:
- Are no more than a marketing scheme
- Go against everything that is known about child development
- Young children do not get any kind of sensory engagement, use of hands, peer interaction in the care of teachers; when they are on computers
- Could lead to behavior problems, sleep deprivation, delays in social-emotional developments
Claims which lead to an examination of the assumptions they are operating on, and questions on how generalized they are:
- The programs are designed to be a complete substitution of the learning experience
- They replace or do not allow for peer interaction and teacher engagement
- They are not interactive
- They are built by commercial or profit-seeking companies
- They are filled with advertisements
- They lead to unhealthy levels of usage
Some of their other concerns are valid, but it is unclear why they are directed at online environments exclusively. If the young learners’ best interests are at heart, the concerns should aim at every kind of learning currently adopted.
- Affordability and access of quality education
- Ability to verify quality claims and examine evidence (particularly in the case of awards)
- Tolerable and legal marketing practices in early education
- Scientifically valid and comparable social-emotional outcomes
- The time of technology and tech-based practices as part of a healthy learning diet
As usual, activism moves forward even if evidence does not. Thorough impact evaluation of programs like non-profit UPSTART, the largest in the US, would show the value of the approach. But deciding if it is better would also require an evaluation of all the other, online-free approaches. It should go beyond parents’ opinions, no matter how dependable they have been over the years.