Early Childhood Programs:

Promoting the Development of Young Children in Denmark, France, and Italy

HEHS-95-45BR: Published: Feb 3, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 8, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on early childhood programs in Denmark, France, and Italy, focusing on how these countries maintain and encourage participation in early childhood programs.

GAO found that: (1) many more 4-year-old children attended public early childhood programs in the other countries than in the United States; (2) children in these countries had higher participation rates because their parents believed in the benefits of early childhood programs, and public programs were more accessible and convenient to parents; (3) public early childhood programs in the other countries have numerous quality standards, including specialized teacher training requirements; (4) early childhood program teachers in the other countries are encouraged to prepare young children for life using overall balanced approaches that teach the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive skills that children must eventually develop; (5) teacher turnover rates in the other countries were lower than the teacher turnover rates for U.S. programs; (6) unlike many U.S. early childhood teachers, all the teachers in the other countries were public elementary school teachers and received pensions, leave, and health care benefits; (7) although child-to-staff ratios in Denmark and Italy were generally within the range recommended for U.S. programs, child-to-staff ratios in France were higher; (8) the other countries' national and local governments substantially subsidized their early childhood programs; and (9) staffing costs per child varied among countries because of differences in child-to-staff ratios and staff training and experience.

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