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The Most Emphatic Early Learning Numbers Explained. 0 to 100!

It is possible to tell a story with numbers. In early learning, there are so many statistics that often get used and recycled to emphasize certain points, whether they deal with percentages, whole numbers of fractions. 

It’s a good exercise to pause, step back and reflect on the individual messages each statistic conveys. Doing so makes it possible to notice the overall picture or trend of early learning. 

Early learning, also known as early childhood education, refers to the education a child receives from birth to age 8, which roughly corresponds to the grade 3 in most school systems.


Early Learning Statistics and Commentary

In this article, we cover early learning statistics from zero to a hundred, divided into 10 sections. As statistics can be spun in many different ways, we provide commentary on each number as we start from zero and make our way to hundred.


0 and Up

Turns out early learning begins at birth! There are developmental milestones listed as early as 2 months. Early Head Start Programs serve infants and toddlers under the age of 3. It shows why there is a need for systematic education for that age group as well. 

This additional $1 billion brings the total Head Start (ages 3-5) and Early Head Start (ages 0-3) funding to above $10 billion for 2021. 

The pandemic affected all facets of life, including early childhood education. In the crucial early years of development, the 2 missed months of learning can have a compounded effect later on if not addressed. 

  • There was little to no disruption for 10 % of 3-5 year olds who remained in the same program on the same pre-pandemic schedule during the pandemic.

Only 1 out of 10 schoolchildren had any sense of continuity during the course of COVID-19. Again, the threat of discontinuity and inconsistency of education in the crucial early years is something that should be examined more closely.

  • Children’s academic success at ages 9 and 10 are determined by the amount of conversation they heard from birth to age 3

There are multiple variations of this one statistic, but it demonstrates the necessity of parental involvement in the early years to instill oral communication in their children. Development of oral language is an important indicator of success in the later years.


The 10s

This is extremely important to take into account, not because of the lack of importance of special education (which is very much needed), but the costs of special education placements and the fact that such placements are preventable via early enrollment.

  • Students from minority communities attended school districts that received nearly 13% less in state and local funding compared to those school districts that had fewer students of colour. 

Education inequity is something that cannot be swept under the rug. With the expansion of high-quality and affordable early learning programs, there is hope that such inequity will dissipate over time. Especially if the best support is provided in the early years, it acts as an outstanding equalizer regarding school preparedness. 

Supporting the last point, this is again a reminder that attending and progressing from preschool to grade three is linked to academic success later on. Thus it’s very important to extend whatever support that is necessary during this time period. 

Before one can even graduate highschool, as mentioned in the last point, it is important that they progress through each grade. This further establishes the link between enrolling early into a school system and successful graduation years later. 

The benefits of preschool attendance do not stop at academic success. When considering everything the child eventually contributes to the economy and the society, the ROI is thoroughly justified.


The 20s

Education resources, both inside and outside the classroom, are so important to early childhood development. Books are one of the best sources for learning, which can be read to kids, and which kids can learn to read themselves. 

  • Pre-k enrollment during the pandemic in the US declined by 22%.

Given everything that is discussed thus far on the importance of pre-k, it’s discouraging to see that a major catastrophe such as a pandemic or natural disaster can discourage enrollment in pre-k. Even if remote learning can be arranged at such times, situational stress and safety concerns seem to have a discouraging effect on enrollment.


The 30s

 There are other forms of learning, besides just cognitive, which have a tremendous impact on both academic and non-academic success for a child. 

In the very famous study conducted by Hart and Risely, where children from wealthier families were exposed to a certain number of words in an hour, it turned out that difference added up to be a massive advantage by the time they turned 4. 

Admittedly, the statistic is worded to provide maximum shock, but the point still stands. Expanding vocabulary in the early years is paramount. 

After all aforementioned benefits of preschool, the fact remains that a sizable chunk of children who are not enrolled in preschool.  The reasons for this are wide-ranging. Understanding them would help address the causes of education inequity.


The 40s

There are positive and negative externalities of early childhood education. Most of the positives have been mentioned such as graduating high school and becoming a productive member of society. 

It also helps to look at what can be avoided, such as crime. This happens when young students are beneficiaries of an education program that goes beyond just academics and teaches them values.

No early learning program is successful without effective teachers. When teachers have the right resources and infrastructure, they are able to do their work well and make a huge difference in early learning. 

Almost half of the 3 year old children in the US were not enrolled in preschool in 2020. This is in contrast 34% of 4 year olds who were not enrolled in preschool. It makes sense that the older children get, the greater the likelihood they will be admitted to school. 

But on the heels of everything mentioned in this article about the importance of starting early, there is a lot more work to be done in providing access to high-quality education to 3 year olds.


The 50s

Pound for pound, books are one of the best resources for learning. Not worksheets, or tablets, but traditional paper books. Even if meant for children, they are designed to fast-track learning and provide a type of learning experience that is more permanent. It’s why here at Spig Learning, levelled readers and storybooks are such an essential part of our early learning programs.


The 60s

Remote learning may be great as a contingency plan, but it is not the preferred method for teaching. Transitioning out of the pandemic, both students and teachers would favour in-person classrooms for high-quality learning. 

This speaks to the intergenerational nature of the inequity in education. It’s been found that when two successive generations of people are educated by the Head Start Program, the latter generation fares better because of improved parenting from previous Head Start attendees.


The 70s

  • 70% of elementary school principals say that they could not meet their students’ mental health needs with the staff they had.

This is why educating the whole child is so important, rather than focusing on academics only. Holistic learning is a great approach that focuses on the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual side of growth which can mitigate any emergent conditions later on.

  • In NYC, the lowest annual fee for a private school is $1280, while the highest is $72,725.

Based on all these statistics, it’s clear that there is a  need for preschool. Sprig Learning has written on the qualities that make a high-quality preschool program before. This statistic however looks at the private sector, and it just demonstrates just how much value can be added on to a program in terms of quality.

Inequity emerges again as a major issue, as kids from families who make less income are less prepared for kindergarten. Assistance is required. There is a window of opportunity to address this discrepancy in the early years of learning.

Beyond education, providing a high-quality learning environment helps families as well who can trust that their children are being well looked after. It strengthens families by allowing them to better manage their time, and giving them confidence knowing they are being supported by teachers and the greater community. Learn about how community plays a key role in holistic learning.


The 80s

Previously, we saw that children from higher income families are better prepared when entering school. This statistic is an extension of that, which shows exactly how those who enter kindergarten ready to learn, can then benefit from the schooling that is provided.

  • By age 3, approximately 85% of the brain’s core structure is formed. 

This is a throwback to the beginning of the article that zoomed in on early development. Indeed, most of the brain develops by age 3, the age when most kids enroll into preschool. Learning truly begins in the home. It is best when early learning programs include a learn-at-home component through which parents are supported to help their child’s learning at home.


The 90s

  • There is a 90% likelihood that, in the absence of additional instructional support,  a poor reader in 1st grade will remain a poor reader.

This is a chilling statistic that shows how important preschool and kindergarten are for taking corrective measures to fix or optimize the learning capacity of the child in question. It’s good to have multiple formative assessments during that period of learning, to identify all learning opportunities before it’s too late.

A teachers’ role in the early learning process simply cannot be understated. There is curriculum, content and methods of assessment, but it’s the teacher who varies instruction in all these areas to best educate a young student according to their unique abilities. 

  • Over 100 activities were conducted across Canada by Indigenous organizations and the government of Canada to inform a better understanding of existing Indigenous early learning and child care systems.

While most of the earlier statistics mention the need for high-quality early learning programs, it is not possible to achieve quality with the considerations of all stakeholders.

When designing early learning programs, respecting the various diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds of communities is extremely important.


Main Takeaways

That brings our article to a close. Hard hitting early learning numbers, from zero to hundred. Going through all of the statistics offers a lot of takeaways. In summary:

1. There is so much research that points to the benefits of prioritizing high-quality education in the earlier years.  Starting early is crucial when it comes to educating young learners. It sets the foundation and tone for the rest of their student journey.

2. Inequity is linked to accessibility. Even if the benefits of early learning are thoroughly understood, expanding such programs to all will remain a challenge for years to come. Certain high-quality aspects of the program might have to be scaled quickly. Sprig Learning can help with that. Reach out to us to know how we can help.


13 Amazing Indigenous Learning Initiatives from 13 Provinces & Territories of Canada

Indigenous Peoples of Canada have always inhabited every corner of the nation. This Orange Shirt Day, we take the time to remember those lives that have been lost or affected. As we remember, we also turn a hopeful gaze towards the future. 

Part of truth and reconciliation is education that is developed by and for Indigenous people. We illustrate 13 such Indigenous learning initiatives from all across Canada. In each case, it’s an initiative developed in collaboration with or by Indigenous educators, Elders and/or community leaders.

Indigenous Learning Initiatives Across Canada

One for Each Province and Territory.


Indigenous Community: Cowichan Tribes

Province: BC

The Cowichan Valley School District has a page dedicated to Hul’qumi’num language resources such as videos, flash cards, stories and a dictionary. Such resources were developed in partnership with the Hul’q’umi’num’ speaking community..

In their learning strategic plan 2020-2024, the school district stresses Indigenous ways of knowing that include “working together with one heart, one mind and one thought”. They emphasize the need for recognizing Indigenous content in their students’ learning journey.


Indigenous Community: Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation

Province: AB

The Athabasca Tribal Council (ATC) has worked with the Elders in its 5 First Nation member communities to develop a Cree App to promote the language. The app is available on the App Store and Google Play and has a growing list of more than 400 words. 

The ATC Dene language app is available on both platforms as well and can be used for self-study or to help in conversation. Its latest version includes word categories such as medicines, directions, calendar, food etc.


Indigenous Community: The Métis

Province: SK

Often students need that extra encouragement to develop a deeper interest in a subject.  While public universities and non-Indigenous organizations offer scholarships, since 2018 the Métis Nation has offered its own scholarship program, to better harness learning interest in its community in Saskatchewan through the Saskatchewan Post-Secondary Education Program.

As president of the Metis Nation Saskatchewan, Glen McCallum says “Education is key to self-determination, what we accomplish today will be for them to build on tomorrow.”


Indigenous Community: Shamattawa First Nation

Province: MB

The Kisemattawa Kiskinwahamakew Kamik School serves the Shamattawa First Nation. It’s situated in the very beautiful and remote fly-in community of Shamattawa. Despite being so isolated, it has all the amenities of a modern school, such as a library, cafeteria, computer lab gymnasium and science lab.  

There are talks of introducing land-based education into the curriculum, which focuses on an Indigenous and environmental-friendly approach to education to develop the child.


Indigenous Community: The Anishinaabe

Province: ON

From the early 2000s, Kwayaciiwin Education Resource Centre (KERC) has collaborated with the First Nations in the Sioux Lookout Area to revive the Anishinaabe language. 

The work helps distill a strong sense of identity in the Anishinaabe people, supporting success for students in schools and in their communities. High-quality educational resources, such as Treaty lesson plans, flashcards and syllabic charts are available at the KERC store.


Indigenous Community: Mohawks of Kahnawá:ke

Province: QC

Early learning and higher secondary education were featured earlier as learning initiatives in this article. To further promote the Indigenous idea of lifelong learning, there is the The First Nations Regional Education Center in Kahnawake, Quebec.

The center offers “individualized training methods” to help adult students complete a ministry accredited education path such as a school diploma, or vocational training.


Indigenous Community: The Innu

Province: NL

The Mamu Tshishkutamashutau Innu Education Board Office has collaborated with other organizations to create an “Innu-aimun” (language resources) page.The Innu Conversation app is available on iTunes. It has 21 topics of conversation ranging from family, to greetings, to the weather. It features speakers from the community. 

The Innu Dictionary and the Innu Medical Glossary are available on both the App Store and Google Play. The dictionary features sample sentences, and the Medical Glossary contains over 1,200 terms and 4,000 audio files.


Indigenous Community: Tobique First Nation

Province: NB

Until recently, the majority of Tobique First Nation parents had chosen to send their children to off-reserve school in the town of Perth Andover.  The last five years have witnessed an incredible example of First Nations control of First Nations education as local education leaders brought in new literacy programs, improved school lunches and a focus on language training.  

Today, the state-of-the art Mah-Sos School currently offers K4 to Grade 5 culturally based programming that incorporates Wolastoq/Maliseet culture, history and language.


Indigenous Community: Abegweit First Nation

Province: PE

When building an education program, staff and resources are a good starting point, but the community needs to be supported with quality programs where students can hone their desire to learn and advance. Abegweit First Nation realizes the need to support the community and covers K-12 education in the community. Homework clubs and after-school tutoring programs are some examples of the services they provide. 

Early learning is a strong focus as well. Their infant and toddler programs are for ages 0-2 and 2-3 respectively, and facilitates the growth in language, math, science, cognitive skills, social skills, and gross motor skills.


Indigenous Community: The Mi’kmaq

Province: NS

Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey (MK), along with the province and Millbrook First Nation have introduced the teaching of Treaty education to all children in Nova Scotia, after renewing a memorandum of understanding.

MK collaborates with Sprig Learning to develop and produce resources that talk about Miꞌkmaq identity, the importance of treaties, present state of treaty relationship, and how to best promote reconciliation. Resources such as interactive assessment apps, where animal characters teach young learners about the traditions and cultures of the Mi’kmaq people.


Indigenous Community: The Kaska

Territory: YT

The Yukon Native Language center, in collaboration with respective Yukon First Nations, came up with posters and pictures of “encouragement phrases”.  These were made to promote language revitalization and restoration, and are in each of the 8 different Yukon Indigneous languages.

For the Kaska language particularly, audio lessons and storybooks are also available. All of these resources are available to download.


Indigenous Communities: Gwich’in and Inuvialuit

Territory: NWT

Gwichin’in and Inuvialuit songs and alphabet games are used as a teaching tool in schools in NWT. An effort is made to promote language visibility. Teachers are encouraged to hang different posters on bulletin boards in accordance with the seasons. 

More localized research needs to be done where teachers immerse themselves in the local culture and try to understand the Inuvialuit perspective.


Indigenous Community: The Inuit

Territory: NT

A memorandum of understanding was signed earlier this year to strengthen the Inuktitut language across Nunavut. The federal government pledged $42 million over 5 years to support the agreement. The approach includes: increasing access to Inuktut language instruction; increasing the number of proficient Inuktut-speaking Inuit educators; and promoting the revitalization of Inuktut language and education rights. 

Aluki Kotierk, President of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated said “This is great news for Inuit students. Increasing the number of Inuktut-speaking teachers will realize our expectation of Inuktut language of instruction in our schools.”


Parting Words

It’s often difficult to discuss the path forward given Canada’s history and the significance of Orange Shirt Day. However, these 13 successes give all of us hope that reconciliation is possible. More needs to be done to bring awareness, understanding and truth around the importance of Indigenous education, language and culture. Indigenous language and cultural revitalization is a vital first step towards Indigenous sovereignty and educational equity across Canada.


The North American Primer on Early Indigenous Education

Indigenous Education and Sprig

Sprig Learning is a purpose-built company that focuses on holistic early learning pedagogy and approaches that ensures every student receives a fair shot at success in school. Education inequity can rear its head in many shapes and forms across schools and classrooms in North America. In all of our educational programming, we strive to address both socio-economic and cultural inequities as much as possible.

Since 2018, Sprig Learning and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey have worked in partnership to create innovative education technology resources for Mi’kmaw students, teachers, and families across Nova Scotia. We have dedicated a Language Revitalization page on our website that provides Indigenous educational resources which support the local curriculum. It helps to collectively pause and reflect back on the nature of Indigenous education, so together we can better support all Indigenous students, families and communities.

What is Indigenous Education?

It’s best to start by defining what is meant by Indigenous education. Awareness of Indigenous matters is rising across North America, but there is definitely a long way to go before there is true understanding and reconciliation. 

Indigenous educators identify several key attributes of Indigenous education. Indigenous education is a lifelong process that is experiential in nature and rooted in Indigenous languages and cultures. Indigenous education is an integration of both Indigenous and Western knowledge, it is spiritually oriented, and a communal activity that involves family, community and Elders. 

To truly understand Indigenous education, the historical context must be understood and reconciled. In the not-so-distant past in both the US and Canada, boarding schools and residential schools were used to assimilate Indigenous children into mainstream society. These social policies ultimately failed and were rightly disbanded. Indigenous cultures and languages are alive today across numerous nations, communities, tribes and language families. But the impact of residential schools is real and devastating. Impacting the important tenets of Indigenous education: language, culture, community, traditions, and relationships. 

As the former Indigenous Supreme Court Judge and senate member, Honourable Murray Sinclair aptly said, “Education has gotten us into this mess, and education will get us out.” This message is especially important in early childhood education, where foundational learning occurs which significantly determines the success of students in later years. 

Indigenous control over Indigenous education is pivotal to this change. Increasingly,  Indigenous communities are administering educational programs and services formerly delivered by non-Indigenous governments. Indigenous communities, schools, and education systems are developing culturally relevant curriculum and community-based language and culture programs and creating their own educational institutions. 

However, full control of Indigenous education has far from been realized. Today in the USA, the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) funds 183 elementary and secondary schools for Indigenous students, 130 of which are tribally controlled. Approximately 95% of American Indian and Alaskan Native students attend public schools, and only 17% of those students attend schools where the majority of students are Indigenous. 

Indigenous research, scholars and educators have long identified that educational outcomes improve when Indigenous communities and schools lead and control their education system. An Indigenous education system that is holistic, lifelong, grounded in Indigenous language and culture, and community-led.

Why is Indigenous Education Important?

Indigenous education has come to the forefront of the education dialogue recently in North America. There is a growing understanding of the importance of Indigenous education and its benefit for all students. Increased awareness and understanding of Indigenous peoples, customs, traditions and cultures helps improve the quality of public education overall, adding depth and innovation to the curriculum across all ages.

There is also much that public education systems can learn from Indigenous pedagogies and approaches. For instance, an Indigenous focus on holistic education, which covers not just intellectual development, but also physical, spiritual and emotional development, allows for more comprehensive support for all learners. In public education, social-emotional learning is often treated as a separate domain. But in Indigenous education, it is inclusive and part of the holistic approach.

Indigenous learning practices incorporate learning by doing. Experiential learning supports informal and formal education where students engage in place-based activities in the classroom or outside on the land. For example, Indigenous learners in Alaska use all five senses to learn, and are also taught to use their gut feeling or intuition.

Indigenous education also places special value on the land and climate. Learning about these things at an early age develops a more holistic consciousness and supports the promotion of ecological sustainability in the long run. 

Incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing and learning into classrooms can also help rectify any false narratives and stereotypes created over the years about Indigenous peoples.

Focus on Indigenous Sovereignty

According to Indigenous educators and leaders all around North America, the most important value of Indigenous education is its role in the further development of Indigenous pedagogy. Both the US and Canada have schools on reservations that have some degree of autonomy to set their curriculum and teaching methods. 

John Martin, Chief of Gesapegiag called the recent memorandum of understanding to develop a regional education agreement as “one more step toward the common achievement of change that fully supports the control of First Nations’s education by and for First Nations in Quebec, as envisioned by Chiefs in the early 1970s”.

The continued advocacy of Indigenous education creates the momentum and urgency for government bodies, concerned institutions and also the private sector to invest in the development of Indigenous resources and professional development.

What Are the Challenges Surrounding Indigenous Education?

The importance of Indigenous education is well established by identifying its strengths, benefits and general sentiments from those in the community. But there is another way to understand just how much of an impact, policies, investments and innovation have on Indigenous education. It’s by looking at what happens when there is the absence of the aforementioned three factors.

Indigenous school children have historically faced isolation, self-doubt and confusion when trying to conform to a system that does not acknowledge their culture and traditions. Further to this, the median annual household income for Indigenous Americans in the US is only $23,000. For those living on reserve, the lower range of this number can drop down to as low as $5,000. Household income levels for Indigenous peoples are not much better in Canada where almost half of the registered First Nations population living on reservations were in a low-income situation in the last census.

So, when combined with the threat of acculturation and poverty, Indigenous students on a whole have not succeeded in school as early learners. Families find it challenging to support their child’s learning at school and at home. Schools are often not resourced adequately to provide the individual attention every child deserves. All coupled with a historic bias (implicit and explicit) in the education system that impacts the success of Indigenous learners.

When it comes to the teaching provided in the schools, Indigenous students have historically reported experiencing minimal individual attention and personal contact with their teachers. This sense of neglect more often leads to a feeling of disconnect, where there is lack of motivation to attend school and learn.

What Is Being Done to Support Indigenous Education?

Things are slowly beginning to improve as Indigenous educators and advocacy groups push for legislative changes that incorporate Indigenous education across the curriculum. But its implementation is patchy across the board, with some jurisdictions not requiring the provision of some Indigenous concepts in the curriculum, and some requiring its implementation at some level.

Indigenous sovereignty and control over education is not fully realized in all jurisdictions.  Yet we should look to celebrate the many successes, including amalgamations of Indigenous knowledge into the curriculum that have been localized.

  • Arizona has developed an Apache language immersion program and drumming to promote Apache culture and pride. 
  • Montana introduced Indigenous history material that explains the current state of the reservations and how historical treaties and acts played a role in it.
  • Washington incorporated elements of Indigenous sciences for its Spokane student body, such as using a traditional menthol-flavored root to soothe throats.

There are capacity-building laws being introduced to support Indigenous education in the US. New Mexico legislature’s Derrick Lente says “it’s not a higher education bill, rather it’s leveraging those folks in higher education capacities to help our students and our tribal communities to develop their own curricula within their own communities”.

In Canada, the importance of building a quality Indigenous curriculum is reflected in many federal programs and commissions. For example, The Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework was set up to provide a “comprehensive and coordinated system that is anchored in self-determination, centered on children and grounded in culture”. 

In a survey of First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada, the importance of language, culture and history were the top responses  from participants in all regions. Both Indigenous parents and youth alike expressed the desire to include more of these themes in the school curriculum. 

Great consideration is being given to early learning in primary grades as well to avoid the classroom alienation many Indigenous students have felt about their history and culture. The revitalization of language is a core concept where Indigenous students should feel proud to express and retain their culture.

There are a host of other challenges that impact Indigenous education, such as school infrastructure, teacher training, extracurricular services, and community support. To date, language and classroom curriculum improvements seem to be the fountainhead for most improvements.

Only the Beginning

Indigenous education is a full-fledged system of its own that holistically embraces the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of learning, with a special focus on community involvement and learning from Elders. There is so much commonality between an Indigenous approach to learning and early childhood pedagogy. This is why, at Sprig, holistic learning is one of the key tenets of our company.

But from a grand scheme of things, Indigenous education in North America requires much more attention. We hope this discussion contributed to the understanding and needed discussion for all Indigenous students, schools and communities.