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Report: Preschool Investments Critical for Global Competitiveness

A non-partisan think tank says that we should look to India and China as examples of what the United States needs to do to educate our kids so they will become competitive in the global workforce.

In a new report released this week, The Competition That Really Matters, the Center for American Progress points out that China and India have "ambitious national strategies of investing and promoting improved educational outcomes for children to strengthen their positions as contenders in the global economy."

The United States, on the other hand, lacks "a coherent national policy for boosting student outcomes," the report said, noting that a lack of political will and uneven progress on the state level don't help matters.

The authors note that these countries "demand our attention because of the sheer size of their populations and economies" and that they are educating their students in larger numbers than the United States. That means more students from those countries, based on the sheer numbers, will be ready to compete in the global workforce.

As the debate continues in this country over the value of providing preschool, here are some interesting notes from the report on what the United States' main economic competitors are doing to prepare their youngest children for academic success:

By 2020, China plans to enroll 40 million kids in preschool, 50 percent more than today; and provide 70 percent of them with three years of preschool. Also, China plans to graduate 95 percent of Chinese youths through nine years of compulsory education.

In India, an integrated child development system is making gains in boosting kids' readiness for school and its preschool system currently reaches 38 million of the country's 160 million children under age 6, with the goal of increasing the number of kids who are kindergarten ready from from 26 percent to 60 percent by 2018. "By comparison, in the United States, publicly supported preschool education reaches about 3.5 million children ages 3 to 5 years old."

And the report notes that India's "effort to ensure universal primary school enrollment is the world's most ambitious elementary school enrollment effort," in what amounts to a rate of primary school attendance that is seven times the rate in the U.S.

The report also looks to what European countries are doing to strengthen their educational systems and services to help families.

So what should the U.S. do? The report's authors call for the country's next president to convene a national summit involving the leaders of every state with a "laser-like focus" on such issues as establishing a national early education system and improving teacher effectiveness.

"Only with renewed leadership on education as a national priority and real investments at all levels of government will the United States hope to be able to remain economically competitive," the report said.

It remains to be seen whether our presidential candidates are listening.

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