Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type



Educational Studies

Director of Thesis

Dr. Kara Brown

Second Reader

Dr. Fred Greer


The following research aims to explore and compare the assets and drawbacks of the public preprimary education systems in Estonia and South Carolina for the purpose of developing policy recommendations for altering funding systems to expand access. First, preprimary education is defined along with its importance, effectiveness, and affordability. Next, funding continuity and public funding are discussed with relation to public preprimary programs. Then a basis is established for comparing Estonia and South Carolina. The methods and limitations are described. A deep dive of data organizes the programmatic and funding data of Estonia and South Carolina, highlighting enrollment, providers, curriculum, educator qualifications and compensation, preprimary funding, and primary funding. The data tell a story of two preprimary systems that result in distinct outcomes for students. South Carolina provides limited access to public preprimary education for some of the students who need it most. Further, state policies operate on the notion that early childhood education is largely outside the realm of public schooling. Subsequently, South Carolina has low enrollment in public preprimary programs and is not effectively utilizing early childhood education as a policy lever to close gaps in educational outcomes and opportunities. Estonia operates an organized system of public preprimary education that is funded and operated in a manner similar to the primary school system. Subsequently, Estonia has high rates of preprimary education enrollment and highly equitable opportunities and outcomes for students. Analysis results in three policy recommendations for improving access, availability, and continuity of preprimary programs. These recommendations support improving continuity between preprimary programs, removing silos between preprimary and primary education systems, and eliminating parental contributions toward tuition.

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