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Research Finds Link Between High-quality ECE & High School STEM Achievement

Sep 19, 2023    |   Research Updates for ECE Educators

A study conducted by researchers from the School of Education at the University of California-Irvine found that high-quality childcare and learning experiences for children under the age of 5 increase STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) achievement in grades 3-5, an outcome that in turn predicts higher STEM achievement at age 15.  

The relationship between early learning and high school achievement is particularly strong among children from lower-income backgrounds. As a result, by the age of 15, the academic disparities between low and high-income students were reduced significantly because of access to high-quality early care and learning experiences.  This achievement disparity reduction was especially strong in STEM achievement and for overall school performance.

The researchers defined high-quality caregiving as caregiving that is both emotionally responsive and cognitively stimulating. The study included 1,096 children born in 1991, and used data from the multi-site 1991 National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. The sample size was 1,096 children born in 1991. Caregiver sensitivity and responsiveness, as well as caregiver cognitive stimulation, were measured using a live observation tool with children receiving 10 hours or more of non-parental care each week in either center-based care, family child-care homes, or in-home care provided by either a relative or non-relative.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Andres S. Bustamante of the University of California-Irvine, noted that caregiver sensitivity and responsiveness were just as predictive of later STEM outcomes as cognitive stimulation. He explained, “Our results suggest that caregiving quality in early childhood can build a strong foundation for a trajectory of STEM success,” adding that investing in quality childcare and early education could be a powerful way to build a diverse pipeline to STEM-related fields of study and work.

For specific STEM activities you can try with little learners aged 0-5, please visit Good2Know Network’s Playful Learning Activities section on STEM Learning.

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