Early Learning Matters Every Day, But It’s Critically Important Right Now 

Early Learning Matters Week reminds us of the critical importance of high-quality early childhood education and care. As the week comes to a close, it is a timely reminder to consider the significance of current policy interest in the early years and, while early learning matters every day – it is critical right now.  It’s a momentous time for the sector, with an alignment of significant reviews and reforms that could shape the future of early learning in Australia. 

Policy Reform Agenda

The Australian Government is undertaking several reviews that have implications for early childhood services and professionals across Australia.  This includes work that has commenced to develop an Early Years Strategy, which aims to improve coordination among different programs, funding, and frameworks that impact early childhood development and wellbeing.  

Additional reviews include a Productivity Commission Inquiry that aims to evaluate funding and policy options to inform the delivery of universal early childhood education and care (ECEC), as well as an inquiry being conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) into the costs of delivering ECEC, the prices charged to consumers, and the impact of these factors on the long-term delivery of ECEC.  

The government is also developing a national long-term vision for ECEC, which is being led by federal, state, and territory education and early years ministers. This is in addition to ECEC being included in the development of a national strategy for the care and support economy, which aims to tackle challenges that span care sectors — such as service demand, labour shortages, and regulatory complexities.  

The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is also undertaking a review of qualification and regulation requirements under the National Quality Framework (NQF). While work is underway implementing the National Workforce Strategy: Shaping Our Future. 

Together, these initiatives highlight the critical juncture for ECEC in Australia. The various strategies, reviews, and inquiries underway aim to enhance the quality, accessibility, and affordability of early childhood education and care, addressing the pressing issues of workforce shortages and regulatory complexities. This has the potential to shape the future of ECEC in Australia, however, with multiple initiatives running concurrently, there are both opportunities and potential risks associated lack of coordination and implementation difficulties. These reviews are also placing a high amount of pressure on the sector to respond. 

Coupled with these national reviews, we are seeing unprecedented investments in ECEC from states and territories — with a number of jurisdictions offering free preschool or kindergarten programs and many delivering or actively exploring the delivery of three-year-old programs. The investments by states and territories are significant because they demonstrate a growing recognition of a shared role in delivering early learning as the foundation for future success and can model potential solutions and strategies that can be included in the national strategy.  

Learning Through Connection  

This year’s Early Learning Matters Week theme is ‘Learning Through Connection’, invited early childhood educators to explore  the vital role that connection plays in early learning. Grounded in the Early Years Learning Framework v2.0 (EYLF), this theme underscores the importance of children’s connections to their world, encompassing family, communities, culture, and place. The refreshed EYLF also places emphasis on strengthening engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing and being. This year’s theme also underscores the importance of acknowledging and valuing the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to children’s learning. Embracing this aspect of ‘Learning Through Connection’ fosters a sense of belonging, enhances social engagement, and encourages active and respectful participation in shared efforts for a sustainable and inclusive future. 

The Mparntwe (Alice Springs) Education Declaration recognises the importance of continued learning, continued and new connections, and learning through connections, when outlining its second goal that ‘All young Australians become confident and creative individuals, successful lifelong learners, and active and informed members of the community’. Connection is especially important for young Australians to become active and informed members of their community who understand, acknowledge and celebrate the diversity and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures – and “who possess the knowledge, skills and understanding to contribute to, and benefit from, reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians”. Connection matters because it helps children develop a sense of place and community, and fosters understandings of the interconnectedness of all people and the environment. 

The theme is significant this year because of the referendum that will be held in late 2023, seeking constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia. The proposed recognition includes the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, an independent representative body that will advise Parliament and the Government, giving First Nations peoples a say on matters affecting them. 

The importance of the ‘voice to parliament’ referendum will also be marked through National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day — Friday 4 August 2023, organised by SNAICC – National Voice for our Children. The theme for this year’s Children’s Day is ‘Little Voices, Loud Futures’, emphasising the power and potential of the younger generation’s voices in shaping the nation’s future. 

A First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution is seen as a powerful amplifier of the work being done to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. It aligns with the ambition of Children’s Day to advocate for a future where these children, emboldened by their culture, can speak their truth and be listened to by all Australians. The day celebrates the strengths, culture, and potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and recognises the crucial role of culture, family, and community in their lives. 

Making this moment matter  

As we mark Early Learning Matters Week, it’s an important reminder to make this moment matter and steer the ECEC sector towards an inclusive, accessible, and high-quality future that truly values the potential of every child.  

Policy Reform Agenda

The Australian Government is undertaking several reviews that have implications for early childhood services and professionals across Australia.  This includes work that has commenced to develop an Early Years Strategy, which aims to improve coordination among different programs, funding, and frameworks that impact early childhood development and wellbeing.  

Additional reviews include a Productivity Commission Inquiry that aims to evaluate funding and policy options to inform the delivery of universal early childhood education and care (ECEC), as well as an inquiry being conducted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) into the costs of delivering ECEC, the prices charged to consumers, and the impact of these factors on the long-term delivery of ECEC.  

The government is also developing a national long-term vision for ECEC, which is being led by federal, state, and territory education and early years ministers. This is in addition to ECEC being included in the development of a national strategy for the care and support economy, which aims to tackle challenges that span care sectors — such as service demand, labour shortages, and regulatory complexities.  

The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is also undertaking a review of qualification and regulation requirements under the National Quality Framework (NQF). While work is underway implementing the National Workforce Strategy: Shaping Our Future. 

Together, these initiatives highlight the critical juncture for ECEC in Australia. The various strategies, reviews, and inquiries underway aim to enhance the quality, accessibility, and affordability of early childhood education and care, addressing the pressing issues of workforce shortages and regulatory complexities. This has the potential to shape the future of ECEC in Australia, however, with multiple initiatives running concurrently, there are both opportunities and potential risks associated lack of coordination and implementation difficulties. These reviews are also placing a high amount of pressure on the sector to respond. 

Coupled with these national reviews, we are seeing unprecedented investments in ECEC from states and territories — with a number of jurisdictions offering free preschool or kindergarten programs and many delivering or actively exploring the delivery of three-year-old programs. The investments by states and territories are significant because they demonstrate a growing recognition of a shared role in delivering early learning as the foundation for future success and can model potential solutions and strategies that can be included in the national strategy.  

Learning Through Connection  

This year’s Early Learning Matters Week theme is ‘Learning Through Connection’, invited early childhood educators to explore  the vital role that connection plays in early learning. Grounded in the Early Years Learning Framework v2.0 (EYLF), this theme underscores the importance of children’s connections to their world, encompassing family, communities, culture, and place. The refreshed EYLF also places emphasis on strengthening engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing and being. This year’s theme also underscores the importance of acknowledging and valuing the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to children’s learning. Embracing this aspect of ‘Learning Through Connection’ fosters a sense of belonging, enhances social engagement, and encourages active and respectful participation in shared efforts for a sustainable and inclusive future. 

The Mparntwe (Alice Springs) Education Declaration recognises the importance of continued learning, continued and new connections, and learning through connections, when outlining its second goal that ‘All young Australians become confident and creative individuals, successful lifelong learners, and active and informed members of the community’. Connection is especially important for young Australians to become active and informed members of their community who understand, acknowledge and celebrate the diversity and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures – and “who possess the knowledge, skills and understanding to contribute to, and benefit from, reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians”. Connection matters because it helps children develop a sense of place and community, and fosters understandings of the interconnectedness of all people and the environment. 

The theme is significant this year because of the referendum that will be held in late 2023, seeking constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia. The proposed recognition includes the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, an independent representative body that will advise Parliament and the Government, giving First Nations peoples a say on matters affecting them. 

The importance of the ‘voice to parliament’ referendum will also be marked through National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day — Friday 4 August 2023, organised by SNAICC – National Voice for our Children. The theme for this year’s Children’s Day is ‘Little Voices, Loud Futures’, emphasising the power and potential of the younger generation’s voices in shaping the nation’s future. 

A First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution is seen as a powerful amplifier of the work being done to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. It aligns with the ambition of Children’s Day to advocate for a future where these children, emboldened by their culture, can speak their truth and be listened to by all Australians. The day celebrates the strengths, culture, and potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and recognises the crucial role of culture, family, and community in their lives. 

Making this moment matter  

As we mark Early Learning Matters Week, it’s an important reminder to make this moment matter and steer the ECEC sector towards an inclusive, accessible, and high-quality future that truly values the potential of every child.  

Sam Page

Samantha Page is the CEO of Early Childhood Australia (ECA), the national peak advocacy organisation for children under eight, their families and professionals in the field of early childhood development and education. ECA was established in 1938 and works with Government, early childhood professionals, parents, other carers of young children, and various lobby groups to advocate to ensure quality, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children from birth to eight years. ECA is a not-for-profit membership based organisation. It also has a successful retail and publishing arm, producing a number of very well regarded subscription based publications including the Australian Journal of Early Childhood. Samantha holds a Master’s Degree in (Community) Management from the University of Technology, Sydney and she is a Graduate of the Company Directors course offered by the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Her passion is for social equality and she has worked in the non-government sector for 20 years across roles encompassing service delivery, executive management, consulting, social policy analysis and advocacy. She has extensive experience in the development and implementation of social policy and sector development projects.

One thought on “Early Learning Matters Every Day, But It’s Critically Important Right Now ”

    This is really important. Because children can catch easily at that stage. For instance, there are so many studies has been published about language learning where it proves that young learner can learn many languages within a short period of time.

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