Early learn­ing es­sen­tial not an op­tional ex­tra

Not enough spent in this sec­tor

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - with greg whitby @greg­whitby Greg Whitby is the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of schools for the Catholic Dio­cese of Par­ra­matta

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.

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