The OECD report identifying the benefits of child care and early education and the dropping numbers of children enrolling in early education centres through child care received debate and commentary – much of which would be difficult for many Australian families who choose not to access child care services – or who simply cannot afford it. Adding to that the linking of the PISA 2015 study results of the improved performance of 15 year olds who had been involved in early education – the pressure on families then feels enormous and overwhelming. The whole issue surely needs more and better commentary. Here’s some thoughts on the OECD report and the resultant commentary.
Outcomes of the OECD report
- Raising the status of the ongoing debate about the need for more funding for families accessing Child Care.
- The importance of early education.
- The correlation of children who have had accessed early education to better academic outcomes in the teen years.
In yesterday’s coverage of the latest OECD report on the percentage of Australian children enrolled in Child Care, those three issues were rolled into one – which, again, leaves Australian families with poor information about the issues and the impact on their children.
Increasing child care funding
Well, that’s not rocket science. Aussie families are doing it tough and childcare costs are crippling in already cash-strapped homes. Do we need more and better funding for childcare? Yes we do, but let’s not hitch that wagon to the long term outcomes for our children when they’re 15.
The importance of early education
Australia ranks 30 out of 35 OECD countries for spending on early childhood education as a percentage of the GDP. This is alarming and great cause for concern as every Australian child has the right to access an early education. However, we must set this aside from the debate raging around the rebate on childcare and the ever increasing childcare rates.
Every child in Australia, in the 2 years preceding their formal school start in Year 1, has access to free government education. This may not be convenient to fulltime working parents but the reality is that it is freely available.
Child care changing outcomes for our kids
As parents we cannot be lead to believe, not for an instant that if our children don’t go to child care that they will be educationally – hang on, let’s go even more catastrophic – career compromised.
That is not what the OECD results indicated and not a fair interpretation of the data collected from the 2015 PISA study referenced within that document.
Early education, in the context of the report equates to the 2 years preceding formal schooling when a child turns 6. They are called different names in different states, however, most parents will understand them to be Kindergarten and Pre-Primary – for children (3) turning 4 and children (4) turning 5. It’s essential that we get very clear in our minds that these are the years of education being referenced from the PISA 2015 study.
Our Little Highway Heroes curriculum addresses these issues.
What is the OECD report actually saying?
The OECD Report clearly identifies that Australia is lagging in the number of children enrolled in child care. The report references the 2015 PISA study of 540000 students from around the world focused mainly on science, with reading, mathematics and collaborative problem solving given less attention.
The data from that study linked better academic performance in 15 year olds who had attended 2 years of early education preceding formal schooling. This is NOT child care. Although children may attend child care for these 2 years of education – these years are taught by tertiary qualified teachers.
Surely it’s of little surprise that a child who is lead into formal learning in a nurturing setting, with access to foundation literacy and numeracy development, of course, is having a strong foundation laid. But, I say it again – this is pre-school and not child care.
Ridiculous and mounting pressure on families
In a world where families are already under significant pressure with financial and work-related commitments, the misrepresentation of the OECD report indicating better outcomes if children attend child care is shameful.
In the early years of life, close and nurturing relationships with family are developmentally and psychologically indicated for children. Whilst these might be available through child care, they are also available in homes through parents, grandparents, extended family and friends. Families should, in no way, feel pressured to get their children into child care to avoid compromising their child’s academic future one day when they’re 15 years old.
In families, there is a delicate balance to be struck. Time in child care needs to be balanced with time at home. Our children are learning so much through their play-based interactions at home and in supported social contexts like playgroup that will most definitely add to their profile as learners throughout their school years.
The two years preceding formal education are important – but not essential. Some little people are simply not ready for the rigours of structured classroom learning and the mounting pressure on parents means that some children are hitting education far too early.
Australian families – relax. Sending your child care may be massively beneficial to your child and if that’s the case power to you. If your child does not go to child care, know definitely that it is NOT is any way going to impact their progress at 15 years old.
The complex job of parenting is indeed a rewarding and difficult one. Let’s support Australian families by providing good information and good interpretation of that information that builds families up.