A new report released by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University indicates how an additional year of preschool will help more children excel better at school and in life, and subsequently lift the nation’s productivity to create a stronger future.
Education start at 3?
While many parents believe sending children to preschool from the age of three is too early; according to Megan O’Connell, Director of the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, it could be the key to helping kids meet critical education milestones.
“There is mounting evidence showing that two years of quality preschool helps children thrive in school and later in life,” says Ms O’Connell. “Some of the flow on benefits of quality preschool include increased school attendance for disadvantaged learners and improved reading and communication skills, which help young people forge successful careers.”
Crucial for development
The official report, titled: Preschool –Two years are better than one, explains how each year around one in five Australian children start school behind their peers and nearly half of these stay behind which in turn puts a strain on teachers and students, and can lead to behavioural problems or social and health issues later on.
“An extra year of preschool can be transformative for vulnerable children, but all children benefit,” says Ms O’Connell. “The most crucial brain development that lays the foundation for lifelong learning occurs before children start school, so preschool plays a crucial role in ensuring children go on to be happy and engaged learners.”
New rebate on the cards
The Labor government just announced that, if elected, $1.75 billion will go towards preschool education for three-year-olds over the next four years, which could mean significant savings for parents.
Currently the Commonwealth only supports funding for four-year-olds, however, if Labor gets in, parents would then be able to access 15 hours of free preschool for any children aged three who attends state government-run facilities. For those with three-year-olds attending preschool education at private daycare centres, an extra subsidy would also be offered.
Read more about preschool:
- Starting preschool or kindergarten? Here’s 8 tips for a smooth transition
- 7 essential milestones for kindergarten and preschool children
- 5 vital life skills to teach your preschooler before big school
The nation benefits
According to Ms Connell, the cost of sending children to preschool a year earlier is minor compared to the almost half a billion dollars spent every year supporting 24 year-olds who fail to make their way into education or employment.
“Each year thousands of young people are disengaged from training and work because they struggled throughout the education system, and Australian communities are left paying billions to our welfare, justice and health systems to support them throughout their lives,” she says.
“Specially designed preschool programs for three and four-year-olds can give children the head-start they need to engage with learning when they’re at school and discover where they can excel.”
Australia catches on
Apparently, Australia is also one of the only countries within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD – an intergovernmental economic outfit consisting of 36 countries) without a mandatory two years of preschool. However, Ms O’Connell thinks we might finally be catching up.
“Although it has taken a little longer for Australia to heed the evidence that early education is every bit as important as school, it is promising that we have an opportunity to bring Australian early learning closer in line with international standards,” she adds.
“Australian governments have done great work ensuring almost all four-year-olds access preschool, so we are well-placed to do the same for three-year-olds.”
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