Strengthening Early Childhood Programs: A Case for Access, Quality and Action
Appropriate social and financial investment in quality early childhood education programs is known to improve transition to school and school achievement, school retention, participation in tertiary education and employment, and general well-being. Importantly, strong early childhood education provision, especially for children from socially and economically vulnerable groups helps ‘close the gap’ in terms of social, educational, and economic outcomes. Unfortunately, despite many excellent early childhood services in Australia, there is considerable variability in their distribution, range, and quality. And many children miss out on early learning programs completely, or participate in poor programs or participate only occasionally. This presentation argues for greater accessibility and a stronger quality framework for early childhood programs. Central to this quality are skilled educators who plan learning programs based on each child’s social and cognitive needs and on contemporary knowledge about learning and development. In turn, staff quality and professionalism are linked to education and training and to on-going professional development. Assuring, monitoring and improving quality are difficult tasks in any profession- and nowhere more so than in early education. But if children are to have developmentally and educationally significant experiences in the preschool years the challenges must be faced head on.
Keywords: Early Childhood Education, Quality, Staffing, Professional Development, Educationally Significant Experiences
Prof. Alison Elliott
Professor and head of School, School of Education, Charles Darwin University