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Home arrow Geography arrow Global Perspectives on Human Capital in Early Childhood Education: Reconceptualizing Theory, Policy, and Practice


Research based on human capital theory makes a compelling case in both economic and educational terms for the importance of early childhood programs. Using cost-benefit analysis, studies effectively measure a selected set of outcomes. Yet, as noted, human capital theory and cost-benefit analysis have significant shortcomings that fail to capture the complexity of the contributions early childhood programs make to children’s development.

The capabilities approach addresses the shortcomings of human capital theory and cost-benefit analysis, and provides a framework for conceptualizing and assessing early education program. The capabilities approach also offers new ways to consider children’s agency and assessment practices. Taken together these can provide a fuller vision of the contributions early education makes to children’s development.


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