The main benefits are that it would allow children to have safe and affordable childcare, maternal employment would increase, and students will be given the chance to interact with children even earlier. Universal means that it is offered to the students regardless of their socioeconomic status, but they can always opt out.
"Optional" and "Universal" seem to be at odds, but let me explain. I believe there should be universal early education in the sense that subsidies would be available just like having Kindergarten in public schools. No in the sense of making it entirely necessary. I feel that children who are enrolled in early start programs should have certain options available to them later in life, such as college grants, to encourage parents to pay attention to the importance of education in their child's life.
Educating kids early lays the groundwork for seeking knowledge throughout life. No one should be deprived from providing education to their children due to socioeconomic status. This is not to say parents should be compelled or forced to send their kids to a certain education program, but every parent should have the option available.
Children will begin school soon enough, and when that starts, there is not much playing around. I think the first five years of a childs life should be with the parents. They should be being nurtured and taught the fundamentals. We didn't have children to shove them into a school system so early.
I do not agree with universal early childhood education. I like the idea of getting your kids in school as soon as possible, but there is no need to make it universal. Let parents decide when they want their kids to start school. This should be a case by case thing.