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The Best of Our Knowledge # 1029



Most scientists readily agree - children begin learning the day they're born. Although pre-school programs, including Head Start, have been around for decades, recent years have witnessed a push by several states and organizations to make pre-k universal.

Universal pre-k is a movement to provide quality pre-school to all 4-year olds, regardless of family income. It's a state funded program, as opposed to a federally funded program like Head Start. So each state sets its own mandates.

School readiness has been a top national education goal of all recent administrations. It was established under the first President Bush, continued under President Clinton, and then through Bush two. And now we often hear President Obama speak about providing education from "the cradle to career."

That phrase is not unique to Mr. Obama. Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick, has supported universal pre-k in his state since at least 2007 through their Commonwealth Readiness Project. That's when he launched his own Education Readiness Project, a pre-k thru college reform effort.

Only a handful of states have enacted universal pre-school programs. But as this movement grows, questions arise about the quality of and access to early education. TBOOK has this exclusive look at one of those state examples Massachusetts.

Paul Tuthill reports. (9:53)


Our next story on pre-school takes us to the coastal town of Mombasa in Kenya, as well as to Zanzibar, where an innovative educational movement there is taking root too.

Parents there have grown increasingly unhappy with educational offerings from both government and private sectors. The problem is compounded by the fact that the children who are not doing well in primary school are Muslim children.

Like in the United States, some authorities in East Africa feel the alarmingly low levels of education, relate directly to a lack of early childhood training.

Now, with support from local and regional networks, communities have found help from Madrassas traditional Muslim schools. But for these Madrassas, starting at the pre-school level is something new.

TBOOK takes you on location to hear this fascinating tale of how early education is evolving in another part of the world.

Network Europe's, Sylvia Smith, reports. (5:29)


First Lady, Michelle Obama, has released recommendations from the Federal Childhood Obesity Task Force. The National Parent Teacher Association was quick to applaud the report. It details some 70 recommendations to help reduce childhood obesity. Among them, schools need to make sure elementary students get recess, and the federal government needs to improve the nutritional quality of food provided to schools.

The goal of the plan is to try to solve childhood obesity in a generation. That means returning to a childhood obesity rate of just 5% by 2030. Right now, about 32% of children and adolescents, or 25-million young people are obese or overweight.

Those extra pounds put children at greater risk of developing a host of debilitating and costly diseases, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And a study found because of obesity, children today may lead shorter lives by two to five years than their parents.

In concert with that announcement, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, has asked local chefs to sign up for a program they're calling Chefs Move to Schools. It encourages chefs to get involved in their communities by volunteering their skills in local school cafeterias.

Glenn Busby reports. (1:35)