Table of Contents
2 Looking Back at Progress: The Past 50 Years
4 The Time Is Now: Early Childhood’s Tipping Point
5 More Proof: Investing in early childhood matters
6 More Awareness: The public now recognizes early childhood benefits
7 More Research: We understand how children learn and develop with increasing precision
8 The Demand Is Here: America’s Shifting Family Demographics
9 A New America: New family dynamics create demands for early child care
10 A New Generation: Gen Y and Z parents are hyperconnected, informed, and social
11 A New Learner: The new “majority minority”
12 Supply Is On the Rise: New Early Childhood Learning Opportunities Unleashed
13 New Talent: Entrepreneurs are on a mission to address early childhood development gaps
14 New Funding: Philanthropy, impact investing, and venture capital are fueling new ideas in early childhood
15 New Responsibilities: Tech’s intersection with children requires new thinking
16 The Future Never Stops: Innovation Trends Reach Early Childhood
18 For Our New Little Learners
22 For Our New Generation of Educators and Caregivers 26 For Our New Generation of Parents and Educators
30 For Our New America
32 Looking Forward: From Scarcity to Possibility
￼BIG IDEAS, LITTLE LEARNERS: EARLY CHILDHOOD TRENDS REPORT • 2019
￼Looking Back at Progress: The Past 50 Years
The future is upon us. As technology and globalization accelerate the pace of change and our level of interdependence, it is difficult to predict what the future of work, future of learning, and future of society will look like. For example, it is estimated that 65 percent of children entering kindergarten today will ultimately end up working in new job types that do not exist yet. While we can’t predict what specific skills and competencies will be required in 2030 and beyond, one thing is certain: The ability for children to thrive is closely linked to their early learning experience. This is especially true for complex, advanced skills and competencies that are social, emotional, creative, and cognitive in nature.
Meanwhile, America is rapidly changing. This year’s entering kindergartners—the class of 2030—are minority/majority, are increasingly consuming digital media, are raised by digital-native Gen Y and Gen Z parents and educators, and are predominantly living
in urban centers. Additionally, nearly one out of two children has experienced at least one adverse childhood experience.
Notable progress in developing new practices and policy models in early childhood development
has been undertaken over the past decades. Major innovations such as Head Start, Sesame Workshop, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, all three introduced in the 1960s, have reached millions of children and families. Scalable, evidence-based models like Early Head Start, home visitation programs, Educare, and other system interventions such as professional learning standards, state-based pre-K, and quality rating systems—to name a few—are now broadly influencing early childhood opportunities for young children and their families.
However, there is a lot more to be done for our young children, and the early years remain massively under-
BIG IDEAS, LITTLE LEARNERS: EARLY CHILDHOOD TREND REPORT • 2018
￼invested. Per the Human Capital Index recently released by the World Bank, the US education system is estimated to only deliver 76 percent of human potential—on par with Serbia. When raised in a lower economic community, one child out of two starts kindergarten not fully prepared.1 A child who enters kindergarten unprepared is 25 percent more likely not to finish high school and 60 percent more likely to skip college. On the positive side, when given the opportunities to develop this critical foundation in their early years, children can establish the skill sets for the future of work and learning, and perhaps most importantly can develop the capacities to
be better family members, friends, neighbors,
and engaged citizens, setting us all up for greater potential to live in a society defined by universal flourishing and greater equity.
The powerful work done by so many, coupled
with the realities of our new America, lays the groundwork for new solutions. A burgeoning new wave of innovation in early learning has the potential to benefit new generations of little learners and their families, as well as our overall education system and society as a whole.
At Omidyar Network, we have the privilege to connect with many innovators and help them grow their ideas. In 2018 alone, we met with more than 300 early childhood entrepreneurs and supported a dozen organizations in early childhood (some featured in this report). In the following pages we seek to capture the megatrends that have brought us to the present and share some signals we see for what future early childhood learning trends could look like.
In the absence of fully knowing what the future holds for our young children, we also focus on the people they are today, ensuring that those little learners have the best possible experiences in their early years.
As with all innovation shifts, we need to remain hyperaware of the risks that come with a new paradigm. Who is this cutting-edge innovation reaching and who is it leaving out? What are the repercussions for increasing usage of technology— especially with young children and on quality relationships and care? In this regard, we are hopeful this report will be a conversation starter. We would welcome any reflections, thoughts, or questions it might spark for you.
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