Just several months from my return to work, we remain unsure of where and when our daughter will start her formal education – especially now with news this week that our preferred centre – one recognised for providing outstanding education – is facing an uncertain future and potential privatisation.
Our situation, though, is not unique.
Every family we know has had to navigate the complex patchwork of services, supports and information that is our early childhood education system; having to hustle and advocate for their child in order to secure a placement.
It all started when, at just 10 weeks pregnant, I was told by an obstetrician that we were “running late” to investigate early childhood centres. Competition for placements in Sydney is especially fierce and her advice was “find a centre that 'feels' right”.
So began our journey of trying to understand and navigate Australia’s system of pre-primary education. We got to work, researching long day care, family day care, preschool and occasional childcare – all services that cater for children between birth and school-age, collectively known as ‘early childhood education and care’ or pre-primary education.
"Far from being an issue for individual
families alone therefore, a nation’s approach
to early childhood education has
widespread and long-term social and
economic ramifications; for better or worse."
Like all parents, our driving motivation was, and is, to ensure a quality education and caring environment for our child. As for all children, between 85–90 per cent of our daughter’s brain development will occur before she’s five, and this precious window of opportunity will lay the foundations of learning for her life.
But the benefits of participation in quality pre-primary education will go well beyond her alone. When children attend pre-primary education, it makes the entire education system more effective and efficient – through increasing school readiness and leading to higher achievement and commitment to school. Providing quality pre-primary education is also an effective strategy for countries to promote economic growth – a fact more relevant now than ever before.
Far from being an issue for individual families alone therefore, a nation’s approach to early childhood education has widespread and long-term social and economic ramifications; for better or worse.