Sunday, 13 January 2008

The financial benefits of accelerated learning

DS1 started reading at a relatively early age, and so he started Kindergarten as early as possible rather than waiting another year before starting school. The reasoning was that although he was quite small for his age (and therefore the smallest boy in his class) he would have been bored staying in long day-care five days a week for another year (DW had returned to work full-time by then - at that time it was our company policy to return to full-time work within a couple of years of returning from maternity leave). He hasn't had trouble coping with school, and one benefit of being one of the youngest in his class is that it's practically the same having started a year later but then skipping a grade, but less disruptive.

There appears to be a certain amount of resistance among many parents and teachers against advancing a child, even though studies have shown it can be a good option for gifted students who can otherwise become bored with school.

Aside from the educational benefits of providing an appropriately challenging learning environment for such students, skipping a grade can also have long-term financial benefits for both the parents and child. Since educational costs are tending to increase at a faster rate than inflation, skipping a grade will not only mean that parents pay less in total for K-12 schooling (saving roughly 1/13th), but the costs for the more expensive high school years will be at the previous year's cost level compared to the situation if a grade hadn't been skipped.

The parents and child will both benefit from college costs being paid out one year earlier, hence at lower real price levels. Although this will also mean one less year to save up for college expenses from the time the child was born until commencing college.

Assuming the same rate of progress through college and into full-time employment, the child will benefit from starting to earn a full-time wage one year earlier, so will always benefit from having one extra year of salary rises via experience relative to their age. And whatever age they eventually retire at, they will have had one extra year of earning compared to the situation if they had commenced work a year later. Once you've started work and have a few years of experience, there are very few jobs where being one year younger would actually be a disadvantage!

I don't think that financial considerations should be a factor in deciding whether or not to accelerate a child through school, but it could help decide whether to start a child in Kindergarten as soon as they are ready, or 'keep them back' for another year before sending them off to school. It seems that more and more parents are choosing to start their kids at school as late as possible (here in NSW there is an 18 month age-range allowed for when a child starts school, so most parents can choose to delay the start of schooling for one year if they want), often for no better reason than the mother (or father) wants to child to stay home with them for another year.

It's too soon to tell if DS2 will even be ready and suited to starting school "early", and in his case it will be a more difficult choice as his birth date falls slightly less than one month short of the cut-off date. That will mean that he'll either be one of the older kids in his class if he starts Kindergarten at the standard age bracket, or else we'd have to ask the local school's headmaster to consider letting him commence school when he's one month younger than the standard age-limit.

While it's always possible to provide additional educational and developmental challenges to children without having them skip a grade, it's often more of a challenge to provide such extra-curricula opportunities in parallel to their standard school activities. Plus it can be hard to avoid the potential for boredom in their normal classes (despite all schools having policy around providing for gifted students, there still seems to be more effort and resources devoted to helping struggling students achieve normal proficiency levels than there are to helping the more able students achieve their maximum potential). Overall, I think it's less disruptive to a child to start school a year early (if it suits them) and then progress with the same cohort of students, compared to having them skip ahead a year at a later stage.

What do you think?

Copyright Enough Wealth 2007

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Other issues to consider:
* What happens graduating at 17? No license can make things difficult depending on where you live.. (Actually - just remembered that you can get your P's at 17 in NSW - so you might be okay)
* Non intellectual development. Social skills, emotional intelligence, etc. (I was enough of a geek that it took me until about 22 to work this all out - i think).
* If skipping a grade causes a sense of entitlement of feeling that you are better than others then it is a very bad thing.

Just a couple of random thoughts... I started school youngish and skipped year 9. Was 16 (turning 17) while doing my VCE (HSC). Finished Uni exams at age 19(20). Then went to work for a big IT company and still have occasional niggles with my age... People 20 years older than me don't want to accept that someone the age of their kids is an "expert" (I am) and is telling them what to do.