In recent years there has been a growing awareness that early years in childhood are very important in shaping outcomes later in child- and adulthood such as educational achievement, but also health, criminal behavior and labor market success. Differences across socio-economic groups in terms of both cognitive and non-cognitive skills appear early in child’s life and persist throughout their school career. For many countries it has been shown that there is a substantial gap in the cognitive development of children from high and low SES. Since children do not attend school at these young ages, and especially children of low SES parents neither attend crache facilities it has been hypothesized that family resources are an important determinant of the early development of children, which has these long persisting effects. Especially for children with a poor start in their development before they start education, early childhood interventions could be beneficial in closing this gap.
In 2008-2010 the Dutch Ministry of Education will start some pilots with early childhood intervention programs to promote the early development of children who face the risk of early development problems. By offering these children preschool education and by involving the parents in this program, the ambition of the government is to decrease the existing gap and to stimulate social participation of the parents (especially the mothers). An important question both from a policy and an academic point of view is which elements contribute to the success of such a program. The South of Limburg will be one of these pilots. This offers a unique opportunity to investigate experimentally the effects of different aspects of preschool programs on the development of children and participation of parents. Paul Jungbluth will coordinate this program. The Dutch government and the province of Limburg will pay the costs of the intervention and provide additional money for an evaluation. To benefit fully from the possibilities to use this pilot as a scientific experiment, additional resources are needed.