A disturbing report has revealed that 60,000 children start school every year developmentally behind in Australia and that more than 30 per cent of preschool education centres are not meeting minimum national standards.
The report by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University has shown that one in three children do not get the number of early childhood hours they need.
It’s concerning reading.
60,000 other children are being let down by a second rate early childhood education system that falls far behind other nations.Image via IStock.
My own four-year-old daughter attends our local pre-school a short walk away from our home. There she plays and paints, she learns to be confident and to communicate. In the tree-filled playground she runs, and jumps and laughs with her friends.
Next year she will go on to school with the backing of a good quality early childhood education.
But my daughter is one of the lucky ones.
60,000 other children won’t start school with such an advantage.
60,000 other children in Australia will begin school vulnerable.
60,000 other children are being let down by a second rate early childhood education system that falls far behind other nations.
The report, Quality Early Education for All found that these children show poor social skills and emotional wellbeing when they start school, then experience behaviour problems that can harm progress throughout the rest of their school years.
It calls for kindergarten to be compulsory for four-year-olds in Australia, in line with the UK, New Zealand and several European countries. Currently in Australia only one in three students attends preschool for the minimum number of hours of 15 hours a week.
It calls for kindergarten to be compulsory for four-year-olds in Australia, in line with the UK, New Zealand and several European countries. Image via IStock.
It has been widely found that children who receive two years of quality early education perform better at school, with children experiencing disadvantage benefiting the most.
"Early learning is as important as the learning a child will do at school. It's not babysitting," Mitchell Institute's director, Dr Sarah Glover told Fairfax Media.
The report says, “While experts see early education as a critical site of development and learning, families often see child care primarily as a place where children are looked after safely while they work or study.”
Dr Glover said governments should heed the evidence and treat early childhood education as just as vital as schooling.
She has said that preschool education was being wrongly perceived as a way to "help parents get back to paid work".
"We are moving in the right direction, but it's too slow, we want certainty and we want to accelerate the importance of early learning. Pretty much every report tells us that we are lagging behind most OECD countries," she said.
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In the report Quality Early Education for All it was determined that quality early years services improve children’s capabilities and wellbeing but these critical services aren’t getting enough support.
Nearly five years after National Quality Standards (NQS) were introduced more than 30 per cent of preschool education centres are not meeting minimum national standards, while 26 per cent have still not been assessed.
“This year’s election battle is being fought across education, so it is timely for governments to look closely at what works across the whole system and target spending to get the greatest return on investment,” Dr Glover said.
“Today’s report tells us improving access to quality education in the early years must be on the table.”
Preschool education was being wrongly perceived as a way to "help parents get back to paid work". Image via IStock.
Not surprisingly we have widening gaps in the quality of preschool education in poor and wealthy suburbs with wealthier families more likely to send their children to preschool - nearly 55 per cent enrolling their children.
Associate Professor Kay Margetts of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, told Fairfax Media that the national standards were too vague.
She said that by the time children start school, they should be able to grasp basic literacy and numeracy skills, such as recognising letters of the alphabet, drawing lines and shapes, and counting from one to five, she said.
"The curriculum doesn't spell this out. There needs to be more concrete guidelines ... particularly for staff who have lower qualifications."
What should a four-year-old know how to do (via Fairfax Media)
• Recognise numerals and letters.
• Count from one to five.
• Understand mathematical terms such as "on top or", "beside", "more" and "less".
• Understanding that letters form words and that black marks on a page are words.
• Draw horizontal, vertical, diagonal lines, and circles.