Australia lagging behind in high quality preschool for 3 year olds
This article is from the June 26 issue of The Age Digital Edition. To subscribe, visit https://theage.digitaleditions.com.au/.
Australia is lagging significantly behind other OECD countries when it comes to the number of three-yearolds enrolled in high-quality preschool programs, which could be affecting students’ academic performance up to at least year 10. Only about 15 per cent of Australian three-year-olds are enrolled in high quality preschool programs, generally delivered by a degreequalified teacher, far lower than the OECD average of 70 per cent, a new report has found. Another 55 per cent of Australian three-year-olds attend less rigorous early childhood education programs, often delivered by educators with lower levels of qualification , according to the report which is based on 2014 figures. About 85 per cent of Australian four-year-olds attended some type of early childhood education for one year in 2014.
However, the OECD report emphasises the importance of highquality early education for at least two years before the start of formal schooling. It has found that 15-yearolds with two years of quality preschooling consistently outperformed their peers with one or no years of early education in PISA science assessments, scoring 25 points higher on average.
Preschool leaders and industry groups say a major part of the problem behind low participation rates in high quality programs is the rate of pay for degree qualified preschool teachers, which is driving people away from the sector.
Early childhood education teachers with a four-year university degree earn up to 30 per cent less than primary school teachers with a similar degree, work longer hours and get fewer holidays, according to the Australian Education Union and peak advocacy group, Early Childhood Australia. The disparity has made it much harder to recruit degree qualified teachers.