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Starting Early Down Under

 

Studies around the globe have shown that early learning programs play a critical role in determining young people’s future success. That’s why a number of Australian universities and several levels of government are investing more than Cdn$16 million in a five-year project examining the developmental effects of childhood education and care in that country.

A key member of the team is Gordon Cleveland (photo right), Senior Lecturer in Economics on the UTSC Management faculty and a specialist in the economics of early childhood education.

Cleveland joins a dozen other researchers from Australia and the U.K. who will assess the effectiveness of early childhood programs in a number of representative communities. His role as lead economist is especially crucial as the project gets under way, when the data collection process and overall study design are being determined.

“Economists are very particular about methodology,” he explains, “and because any conclusions may influence policy, the data will need to be supported by sound numbers that speak to the policy people in government.”

National child care research on this scale is unusual.

Cleveland points out that Canada has not yet conducted any countrywide studies that include on-site evaluation of the quality of early childhood education. The Australian project will therefore be closely followed by education experts around the globe, including in Canada. The research team members – educators, psychologists, early child care specialists and health pro-fessionals – are counting on their economist colleague to help generate results that will be meaningful to policy-makers.

“Governments want to know that a study like this includes a sound assessment of the costs and benefits of any potential policy changes,” says Cleveland.

As for his own interest in the economics of child care, Cleveland says it began when he was completing his PhD at the University of Toronto:

“At that time, I had young kids, so perhaps it’s not surprising that when it came to choosing a thesis topic, my family life and my academic interests came together.”




© University of Toronto Scarborough