How much is your toddler’s education worth?
Here’s how much families around the world are spending.
European parents spend considerably less than Chinese parents on their toddlers’ education. Indeed, Chinese parents spend more than twice as much as German ones, and four times as much as the French on pre-school educational activities and materials.
This seems to be a cultural phenomenon: in Europe, 'education' is perceived as a longer term natural process that happens alongside, and comes second to, bringing up a healthy child; in China, it's perceived as an active process, a central tenet to raising a successful child and requiring substantial early investment in products or services.
This is even reflected in the analysis of how European parents are spending money in this age period: while they tend to invest in educational toys and learning through play, Asian parents generally have a more rigorous approach to early childhood learning.
In Europe, pre-school learning is perceived as an outcome of the process of play. In China, our research suggests that learning is perceived as the outcome of the process of education.
So how much do parents around the world invest in their toddlers’ education? The results are in...
What percentage of toddlers are in private nurseries and preschools?
In China, 30% of preschool children are in private pre-schools, contrary to European countries which tend to have less than 15% of their preschool children in private schooling. In most European countries such as Italy (3% in private schooling), Spain (4%) and France (12%), public school is free from the age of 3, which makes it an appealing alternative to private schooling. In China, there are also very affordable public preschools, but spaces are limited and the quality of education is inferior to that in private schools. It is interesting to see the variation across countries in percentage of people who put their children into private schooling from a young age - despite there being a cheaper alternative - simply because they believe this to be an important step towards future success.
How much do parents spend on extracurricular education every year?
Even when school costs are omitted, the gap between what parents around the world are investing in the early years is huge. This includes spending on books, extra-curricular classes, educational apps and websites, and toys.
Spending on educational activities and materials outside of formal education is highest in China, at ~€1,500 a year, followed by England. Italians, on the other hand, are spending less than ⅓ of what the Chinese spend on their toddlers’ education resources, closer to ~€450 per year.In fact, Chinese families spend ~25% of their family household income on their kids’ education, whilst European countries generally spend less than ~5% of theirs on educational materials and activities.
Where does the money go?
China spends in the thousands of euros on education outside of school. Most of their budget is dedicated to tutoring, online English language programs, and a large spend on books. China also had the lowest spending on toys, focusing instead on resources perceived to be more directly linked to educational benefit. Some of the most successful tutoring businesses are online English teaching services including VIPkid and DaDaABC. In Italy, Spain, and France on the other hand, toys make up a large part of the budget. Brands such as Clementoni, Imaginarium, and V-Tech are all popular because they tend to produce games which mix technology and education to develop children's critical thinking and creativity. European parents tend to prefer to see their child learning ‘through play’. In England and Germany most of the budget is spent on extracurricular classes such as swimming, music, sport, and drama. Language learning is also becoming popular, with digital learning apps such as Lingumi starting to emerge on the market in Germany, Spain, France and Italy. Books are on the decline however, especially in England where only 51% of English preschoolers are being read to daily.
How popular are educational apps and tablet use?
Around the world, tablet usage by toddlers varies from 5% (Germany) to 42% (UK). Across countries, the time spent by kids on tablets each day varies from about 5 minutes (Germany) to 140 minutes (China). In Taiwan and China, children spend the most time on tablets, but it is often dedicated to english tutoring. In Spain (25%) and France (12%) tablet usage by toddlers and time spent on tablets are fairly average (around 60-90 minutes a day), and most of the time spent using tablets is monitored by parents and dedicated to “educational” activities. In England, more than a third of preschoolers own their own tablet. They spend about half the time using their tablet for educational games, and the other half for entertainment, spending about two hours a day using screens of one type or another.
After reviewing recommendations by doctors and neuroscientists, we can say that time spent on screens, or time invested in educational resources, can be have both positive and negative outcomes. The most important thing isn't buying these tools, it's how parents use and engage with them. Like a book, a tablet or a learning toy can be an amazing educational resource, and provide fun and joy… the secret is for parents to get involved, making the experience interactive, exploring the new world and playing with their child.
To explore the full infographic, click here.
Capucine May is studying Political Science at Cambridge University, and is an intern at Lingumi. Lingumi is an English learning app for children from 2 - 6 years, designed to make English learning more interactive, effective and fun. Click here to learn more about how Lingumi can benefit your child.