James Heckman makes the point that education is a continuous process. He writes, “Skill formation is a dynamic process with strong synergistic components. Skill begets skill. Early investment promotes later investment. Non-cognitive skills and motivation are important determinants of success and these can be improved more successfully and at later ages than basic cognitive skills.” The following summary of the research into early intervention programmes in the US by James Heckman suggests that the effects of such programmes are significant and have long-lasting effects.1
Disadvantaged subnormal I.Q. children in Ypsilanti, Michigan were randomly assigned to the Perry Pre-school programme and administered intensive treatment at ages 4–5. Treatment was then discontinued and the persons were followed over their life cycle. These people are now about 35 years old. Evidence indicates that those enrolled in the programme have higher earnings and lower levels of criminal behaviour in their late 20s than do comparable children randomized out of the programme. Reported cost–benefit ratios for the programme are substantial. Measured through age 27, the programme returns $5.70 for every dollar spent. When returns are projected for the remainder of the lives of programme participants, the return on the dollar rises to $8.70. As with the Job Corps, a substantial fraction (65%) of the return to the programme has been attributed to reductions in crime (Schweinhart, Barnes & Weikart, 1993). The Syracuse Pre-school programme provided family development support for disadvantaged children from prenatal care through to age five. Reductions in problems with probation and criminal offences 10 years later were as large as 70% among children randomly assigned to the programme. Girls who participated in the programme also showed greater school achievement (Lally, Mangione & Honig, 1988). Studies of early intervention programmes have found short-term increases in test scores, less grade retention, and higher high school graduation rates among enrolled children. Of those studies that examine pre-delinquent or criminal behaviour, most have found lower rates of deviant behaviour among programme participants.