Does early learning matter enough in Australia?
Well, it definitely matters for children who thrive when they can learn through play.
It matters to families who value the benefits for their children, as well as it because it enables them to work.
It matters for our amazing early childhood educators, who’ve been at the frontline throughout the pandemic helping children and families to get through.
But does it matter enough for our governments?
There’s been some promising signs recently like the long term funding for preschool and the increased subsidies for families.
But if you look around the world, you have to say that Australia could be doing more.
In the US, President Biden has made early learning one of the cornerstones of his policy agenda.
Canada has a new national Early Learning and Child Care plan which is a strategy for jobs and growth.
In the UK children receive two years high quality early learning and 30 hours per week if their families work.
And this is even before you get to the world leading early learning systems in some of the Nordic countries.
Now I know our governments are distracted right now but we need to keep an eye on the future as we deal with current challenges.
The economic and social costs of COVID are immediate but the costs of not valuing early learning are significant and we pay them in the short and the long term.
Quality early learning helps children thrive now and to grow into successful adults. It helps families flourish, reducing stress, building parenting confidence and helping with the work and family juggle.
It provides rewarding careers for our educators, teachers and leaders if they receive the recognition and the opportunities that they deserve.
So when you look at what happens in an early childhood service a lot of people just see children playing, but look closer and you see all these benefits laying the foundation for our future.
So if governments are serious about economic recovery, we need to get early learning right. If we want the next generation to grow up healthy, smart, resilient and ready for whatever the future holds, then we need to invest now when it matters most, in the critical early years.
You can think of early learning as a kind of vaccination for Australia’s future.
It’s time that it mattered more.