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Effect of Early Childhood Learning on Life-Long Success and Well-Being

The way educators in Canada, and increasingly in the world, think about the importance of the early childhood environment was dramatically altered by the work of the late Dr. Clyde Hertzman from the University of British Columbia. At the time of his sudden death in January 2013, Dr. Hertzman was the director of the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) as well as a professor at the School of Population and Public Health.

In study after study, Dr. Hertzman demonstrated that “the circumstances of a child’s first few years are critical to future development right through to old age.”

Dr. Hertzman described a process called “biological embedding” to describe how the early environment is a greater determinant of a child’s future behaviour than genetic makeup.

The Research

In a landmark project, using a new tool called the Early Development Instrument (EDI), Dr. Hertzman enlisted kindergarten teachers across Canada to assess their charges in five key areas:

  • Physical well-being
  • Social competence
  • Emotional maturity
  • Language
  • Communication

The Results

Across 23 neighbourhoods, lower income areas were most affected. However, a surprising number of vulnerable, at-risk children surfaced in middle class and upper class neighbourhoods as well.

This is an especially serious issue when language and communication are affected in that language and communication skills are the building blocks of intelligence and school success. Moreover, the issues of social competence and emotional maturity affect behaviour and attention, which are key factors in future school and life success.

At the Vancouver Learning Centre we assess all these factors in young children and an individualized and targeted program is designed and delivered to each child one-to-one. This can include attention to delayed skills and enrichment for areas of strength.

Now that research points to the importance of early childhood experience to life-long success, health and well-being, it behooves parents to pay specific attention to this time in their child’s life in a new and proactive way before the start of school. It is well known that prevention and acting to prepare ahead is the best possible investment in a child’s long-term success.


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