Shared from the 8/9/2018 Sydney Morning Herald eEdition

Big benefits in early childhood education


There’s more to singing If you’re happy and you know it than meets the eye. Naming emotions combined with educator responses – ‘‘I can see singing songs makes you happy’’ – allows a child to express their feelings and shows that the educator supports them. Photo: Goodstart Early Learning © SWinderlich/ECA.

‘Educators are constantly seeking professional development to keep up with an ever-increasing knowledge base.’

- Samantha Page

Most countries in the developed world provide families with affordable access to high-quality early education and care in the years before children start school.

The United Kingdom, France and New Zealand, among others, provide free or lowcost early learning delivered by qualified educators in appropriate settings where children learn skills such as communication, collaboration, problem solving and selfregulation through a curriculum that supports plenty of play and inquiry.

Research consistently demonstrates significant and life-long benefits from highquality play-based early learning. These include better education outcomes as well as lifelong social and emotional wellbeing.

Unfortunately, not all Australian families have access to quality, play-based early learning for their children. Just 68 per cent of Australian three-year-olds attend early education – ranking us in the bottom third of OECD countries and leaving a third of our children at risk of educational disadvantage.

One in five Australian children will start school developmentally vulnerable and, according to the latest Australian Early Development Census, that figure doubles to two in five for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

‘‘What children learn and experience in the first five years lays the foundation for their emotional, social and cognitive development for the rest of their lives,’’ says Samantha Page, CEO of Early Childhood Australia, who launched #EARLYLearningMatters Week on Sunday.

‘‘Babies are born ready to learn and their brains develop through use. In the first five years of life, a child’s brain develops more – and faster – than at any other time in his or her life.’’

Australian studies show that children who attend a high-quality early childhood program in the year before school are up to 40 per cent ahead of their peers by the time they reach year 3 in primary school. The most recent Report on Government Services (SCRGSP, 2017) showed children who participate in early learning have half the rate of vulnerability as children who don’t attend any early learning.

A recent UK study (Waldren, 2017) found children who attended quality early learning had higher grades in school, were better able to manage their behaviour and had lower levels of hyperactivity. The longer the child spent in preschool, the higher the quality, the better their grades and the more likely they were to continue on an academic pathway.

Australia is a world leader in providing a National Quality Standard (NQS) for early childhood education services. Currently, 93 per cent of services have been assessed by the Australian Children’s Education and Quality Authority and 77 per cent meet or exceed the NQS. ‘‘Early childhood educators are qualified to deliver education programs designed to support the optimal development of children across each age group from birth to age five and into the early years of school,’’ says Page. ‘‘They have university degrees in early childhood education or a diploma or Certificate III. Educators are constantly seeking professional development to keep up with an ever-increasing knowledge base about child development and learning.’’

The good news for children is that conclusive evidence shows play is key to a child’s enjoyment of learning while enhancing their emotional well-being, advancing social skills and leadership capabilities.

‘‘Early learning amplifies children’s natural skills and abilities,’’ says Page, adding play leads children to set their own goals, resulting in feelings of achievement and resilience. ‘‘Young children learn best through play-based activities suited to their age. Play enhances cognitive skills and improves outcomes for children at school and right through into later life.’’


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