Why is Australia off the pace in childcare participation and funding?

Why does Australia constantly come in well behind many other countries around the world on our participation levels for early childhood education – well the answer, at least in part it seems, is about Government investment.

Around the world – China, the United Kingdom, Northern Europe, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – governments are making long term funding commitments to ensure their three and four years olds are ready for school and life.

At the moment Australia is lagging far behind, we rank 20th out of the 40 countries in the OECD on spending on early learning and 25th of 40 on the percentage of 3-5 year olds enrolled in early learning. The Federal Government’s proposed $3.2 Billion childcare package will be just a step along the journey when it’s implemented.

uk-flagUnited Kingdom: making it easier for families

In the UK the Conservative Government has promised working families 30 hours of free early learning and care every week. During the last election campaign both major parties promised big increases in the amount of government funded early learning.

Click here to watch a fascinating interview with Oxford University’s Professor Edward Melhuish conducted by ABC Lateline’s Emma Alberici. He says Australia is 25 years behind the UK.

us-flagUS: Hillary Clinton knows the value of early learning and care

As the race for the US Presidency heats up, the Democrat’s Hillary Clinton put childcare high on her agenda, early in the campaign. Listen to her speech here.

Clinton makes the point that too many families are struggling and quality, affordable childcare is a lifeline for working parents – and importantly, an essential component of early development for children.

President Obama has been an early learning advocate for years

In his State of the Union 2013 speech, the President said

“In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children…studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”

He’s pushed Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool for every child in America, proposing investments that support a continuum of early learning opportunity, beginning at birth and continuing to age five.

Click here to watch President Obama talk about the importance of Early Childhood Education.

china-flagChina: early childhood development has become a National priority

The Chinese government has recently made early childhood development a national priority, recognizing the social and economic advantages quality early learning opportunities gain for its human capital in the long term. As the country with the largest population in the world, approximately 100 million children under the age of six in China stand to benefit from increased access to high quality early childhood education.

Early Childhood Australia have published a great paper on the rise of access to quality early learning in China by 2020. Read it here

norway-flagNorway: Researchers find the direct benefits of quality early learning

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) has been a policy priority in many Nordic countries. A growing body of research recognises that it creates a wide range of benefits, including social and economic benefits, better child well-being and learning outcomes as a foundation for lifelong learning, more equitable outcomes and reduction of poverty, and increased intergenerational social mobility. But, these positive benefits are directly related to the QUALITY of ECEC.

Check out this article on the introduction and history of early education in Europe

aust-flagWhat can we do?

What’s going on here in Australia? Here is a short animation which makes the point in a very graphic way.