Early learning essential not an optional extra
Not enough spent in this sector
LAST week’s Federal Budget delivered increased funding for schools, with the Government committing an extra $1.2 billion in funding until 2020.
Although it falls short of expectations, it is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, there was no additional government funding for access to early years’ learning. When we live in a nation as prosperous as ours, we cannot continue to view quality early learning as some kind of optional extra for children.
Every child in Australia deserves access to an affordable quality education that shouldn’t begin in Kindergarten and end in Year 12. When we talk about education it has to be inclusive of preschool as well as postschool options.
Despite research showing the academic, social, emotional and physical benefits of early learning, Australia lags behind when it comes to the provision of, and access to, quality early education. We spend less on early education and have the lowest enrolment rates of three year olds compared to other OECD countries.
We have to follow in the footsteps of Sweden, where 80 per cent of children aged one to six are in preschool; or Canada where graduation rates for students are closely related to their exposure to early learning from three to five years old.
It’s time our governments got serious about the importance of early learning, the need for well-paid and highly qualified early learning teachers; and providing adequate funding for the long term.
We need a co-ordinated approach and a coherent education policy linking early learning to school and beyond.