Is there a Trade Off between Cost and Quality?

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When looking for an early childhood program for a child, there are many factors parents take into account. Some pressing ones are convenience and cost, but at some point there is a potential and inevitable trade off with the quality of the care, and in particular the process quality.

Process quality is focused on how interactions happen and how the curriculum itself is implemented during caregiving. According to the science of child development, it is one of the most important things to focus on. Various studies have shown that children benefit enormously from a learning environment where they experience responsive, warm, sensitive and language-filled interactions. The quality of these interactions can have a huge bearing on whether children learn to grow, explore and fulfil their potential.

For parents, various different factors can play a role in choosing a childcare center. Process quality can easily take a back seat to something like proximity, when the convenience of dropping a child off before work tops everything else. However understandable this is, it is a shame since process quality should be one of the paramount factors in guiding the decision of where to send children for daycare.

It also stands to reason that higher quality costs more, and many parents are trying to economize on cost, too. Cutting costs almost always results in lower quality, and so a trade off has to be made. But exactly what are we trading?

Truth be told, little is really known about how to calculate the cost of process quality. Exactly what is being priced, and how? Are the inputs involved things we could calculate and scale? How do we transform these inputs into a high quality process?

Another problem with process quality is that it is only sustainable if it is approached systematically. Moving to a systematic approach from a programmatic one can add to costs in various ways, and also add some difficulties when thinking about quality.

Another problem with process quality is that it is only sustainable if it is approached systematically. Moving to a systematic approach from a programmatic one can add to costs in various ways, and also add some difficulties when thinking about quality.

  • Enough staff for all the different programs annually
  • Attractive compensation for staff so they are encouraged to grow over time
  • Training opportunities exist, as do coaching and mentoring. These encourage staff to stay in the childcare field and advance professionally
  • Quality is monitored via data and published to families, program coordinators and other interested parties can act to make the best decisions for the children
  • There are standards set in place which are consistently met by caregivers

To install all this criteria is clearly an expensive and timely process. Quality, therefore, is costly.

So, how do we approach the trade-off between quality, cost and convenience? Well, frankly, there should not be a trade off. Quality is such an integral part of childhood programs that it should be absolutely non-negotiable.

If there is a choice between investing less or more for quality, for the best outcomes possible we should absolutely invest more in order to reap the benefits later on with a group of healthy citizens that are given every opportunity to reach their maximum potential.