Getting Education Right

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Science  19 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6045, pp. 919
DOI: 10.1126/science.1212394


Science has published three education special issues since I became Editor-in-Chief in 2008. We first focused on harnessing computer technologies for education (January 2009) and then highlighted the synergies between inquiry science teaching and the acquisition of literacy skills (April 2010). In this issue, we review the research on early childhood education. Especially informative are the long-term studies on the effects of early childhood interventions, which indicate that an appropriate schooling of children as young as 3 years old produces remarkably large benefits for society, even in cases where the children do not perform significantly better academically. A critical variable appears to be the effect of these early education programs on what neuroscientists call “executive function”: the brain activities that underlie each individual's mastery of self-control.* This finding raises critical questions about how nations educate their youth. For example, how can the programs that have thus far been used to enhance children's self-control be further improved? To what ages should these programs extend in school, and how can the most effective practices be scaled up to apply them universally? And why has so little of what we have learned from research about schooling been incorporated into the way that most school systems function?†

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