A new analysis of the reading results of 15-year-olds shows that the benefits of pre-primary education are related to how it is provided.
The Pisa 2009 rankings by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that the difference between students who had attended pre-primary education for more than one year and similar students who had not attended at all was marked.
In fact, they were more than a year further advanced.
But while pre-primary education in general made a difference, the impact varied between countries. The system in Belgium, France and Israel had a particularly large effect, whereas in Estonia, Finland, Korea and the US, there was little relationship between pre-primary education and later performance, once differences in background had been taken into account.
The first report in a series entitled Pisa in Focus points out that across OECD countries, students who attend pre-primary school tend to come from more advantaged backgrounds than those who do not attend, and that the reason for low take-up in some countries may be due to the cost of attending.
OECD analysts found that the school systems that perform best are also those with more inclusive access to pre-primary education.
They also found that the length of time children attended pre-primary education and smaller pupil-to-teacher ratios also had a measurable effect on scores at age 15.
The report concluded: "Widening access to pre-primary education can improve both overall performance and equity by reducing socio-economic disparities among students, if extending coverage does not compromise quality."
Insight, pages 26-27.