Access to a high-quality preschool program is one of the few proven strategies for lifting outcomes for all children. Evidence shows that two years of preschool has more impact than one, especially for the children most likely to be developmentally vulnerable. It is time for Australia to pursue a national commitment to ensuring all 3 year olds have access to high-quality early education by offering a second year of preschool.
Every child in Australia deserves the opportunity to reach their potential.
If Australia is to remain globally competitive into the future, it is vital that we invest in programs that promote opportunity, boost our human capital and close the disadvantage gap.
Currently, nearly a quarter of Australian children arrive at school without the foundational skills they need.
And we are not doing all that we can to ensure all children have the best possible opportunity to develop the early cognitive and social emotional skills that set them up for life.
In Australia, a child’s risk of being developmentally vulnerable is closely correlated with their socio-economic status, meaning that before they have even started school, some children’s chances are more influenced by where they were born than by their own innate abilities.
These inequalities often increase as children progress through school and if Australia wants to maximise its human capital, these inequalities need to be addressed.
Australia has laid the groundwork for delivering two years of high-quality, universal preschool programs.
Currently, two thirds of 3 year olds are already attending early education and care and we have achieved near-universal enrolment in preschool for 4 year olds.
But the children missing out are the ones who would benefit most from access to a preschool program, and not all children are receiving the amount of high quality early education needed to maximise their potential.
There is a clear opportunity here. Moving to two years’ access to a universal preschool program can be an affordable, achievable and effective way for us to achieve greater and more equitable outcomes for Australian children.
Source: Fox, S and Geddes, M. (2016). Preschool - Two Years are Better Than One: Developing a Preschool Program for Australian 3 Year Olds – Evidence, Policy and Implementation, Mitchell Institute Policy Paper No. 03/2016. Mitchell Institute, Melbourne. Available from: www.mitchellinstitute.org.au