Child-care centres to focus on preparing children for school

Report shows Australia is falling behind in early childhood development.
Report shows Australia is falling behind in early childhood development. 

All child-care centres will be required to begin baby learning and child development programs from July as part of a Federal Government push to make sure children are ready to learn when they start school.

"We want children to start school as happy, confident learners," the parliamentary secretary for Early Childhood Education and Child Care, Maxine McKew, will tell a conference in Hobart today.

"We now know the first three years of life are critical to how children develop language and control emotion. This is their foundation to become well-adjusted adults. The further we look, the more the research points us towards the same conclusion - getting a child ready for school and life starts at birth."

The Early Years Learning Framework was trialled in 28 centres earlier this year. International research suggests children learn the most between birth and the age of five. The Herald has learnt the Government does not plan to develop a curriculum or collect statistics. Rather, it wants a system of child-care centres where children are stimulated and encouraged to be curious.

For babies, the approach could be as simple as requiring staff to interact more with their charges, such as by making eye contact and mimicking sounds.

We now know the first three years of life are critical to how children develop language and control emotion. This is their foundation to become well-adjusted adults. The further we look, the more the research points us towards the same conclusion - getting a child ready for school and life starts at birth.

For older children, staff will be asked to foster creativity and intellectual inquiry, and help children form positive relationships and develop strong self-awareness.

Ms McKew will tell the conference that the growing number of children in formal care before they go to school demands a greater emphasis on education.

"It's far better to invest in a child's early years - the origins of what causes them to be happy confident learners - than it is to do remedial work if they perform poorly at age eight in literacy and numeracy tests," an early copy of her speech obtained by the Herald says.

Many child-care centres already give parents a day-by-day breakdown of what their children do, including information on how they interact with other children, how they respond to instructions, and whether they show any interest in more formal learning such as curiosity about books.

The Government is also considering mandating the number of staff per children in each centre and insisting on educational qualifications for staff. It has promised to introduce free preschool education for all four-year-olds by 2013.

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