Don’t worry, they’re taking good care of your children
Imagine you are the harried working parent of a bustling four-year-old child - unless of course you’re actually in the zone right now, experiencing all those many wonders first hand.
Next year’s the big one. School, and potentially a 13-year stretch of study, social integration, with hopefully some fun and a few of life’s lessons in the mix.
As you’re dropping them off at the local pre-school before zooming off to work, it is time to wonder how much do they really need to learn right now.
Last week, the Fairfax press (Preschools flunk the test) reported on a government-funded study, indicating ‘instructional quality’ at the nation’s preschools was ‘very poor’, even ‘shocking’ and marked them just two from a possible highest ranking of seven.
For the purposes of plain English, you can take ‘instructional quality’ to mean whether your child’s carer was busy setting any lessons or formalised learning time.
The very next day the combined authors of the study (a joint University of Melbourne and Queensland University of Technology team called E4Kids) debunked the story via their website - and went, instructively, much further…
Into the first of a five-year research project, their initial results actually found the 2500 sampled preschools were providing medium to high levels of learning and emotional support.
That’s pretty good.
Now given this study is costing taxpayers $16.8 million, you might have expected the Federal Government would be relieved preschoolers under their watch were not in as much peril as originally thought.
To date their only comment regarding the erroneous story was: “Any report which tells us we need to do better when it comes to the critical early years in a child’s life is a report we need to pay some attention to”.
Perhaps attention could start with the preamble of their very own E4Kids study:
Child care services, such as long-day care and family day care were, after all, mainly established to provide a caring environment for children to allow parents to do other things, principally employment. The policy direction of introducing an early education concept and learning outcomes from birth to all types of early childhood service is recent. The findings…should not be construed as making a case for formal subject matter or content-focused learning in child care and kindergarten settings, making them more school-like.
They also state: “It is inappropriate to make summary statements about the nature of (early learning) programs until the analysis is completed. To draw conclusions from the research at this stage is hazardous and likely to lead to unbalanced evaluations”.
Balance is a vital ingredient missing from much of the Gillard Government’s work.
E4Kids has another four years of analysis to go, yet Labor is introducing Universal Access and Learning for our four year olds from next year.
And despite industry calls for a delay, this year Labor launched new National Quality Framework rules and standards to be implemented at all Australian childcare centres.
These hefty changes mean more taxpayer dollars, increased costs for childcare operators and a jump in fees for parents - all at a time when now compulsory early years teaching staff are headed off into better paid primary school jobs.
It’s a clear message for the Government – just as it might often be for your average preschooler: Slow down, or you could hurt someone.
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