Tuesday, 24 Mar 2009

For immediate release 24 March 2009
Early years care must improve teaching strategies, says childhood learning expert

Early years education systems must focus on effective teaching and learning strategies and improving staff qualifications to ensure successful outcomes for all children, Professor Collette Tayler will tell educators in a series of seminars for the Australian Council for Educational Research in March and April.

Professor Tayler, Chair of Early Childhood Education and Care in the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education, will stress that in terms of the overall education debate, nothing matters more, or has more long term impact on education outcomes, than the provision of quality education in the early years.

“Staff who care for and educate very young children – all those under five years old – have a large influence on children’s development and learning and their long-term outcomes. It is time to recognise this, invest in staff development and value the contribution of early childhood professionals to children, families, the economy and society,” she says.

Professor Tayler conducted a 2006 review of early childhood education and care in 20 OECD countries. This review found that in many childcare services the majority of staff do not hold internationally recognised qualifications for education and the curriculum does not contain sufficient pedagogical content to rank as educational.

According to Professor Tayler, it is widely acknowledged that current staff training levels are inadequate to assure children receive a quality educational experience, and that Australia’s investment in early childhood education has been among the lowest in the OECD despite this country being one of the more wealthy members.

“The quality of children’s early experiences has enduring effects on their learning, educational attainment and productivity,” she says.

It is time to reconsider the shape of childcare and preschool programs and ensure a robust mix of programs that enable a fair start in life to all children. Who the programs serve, what they achieve and how they are funded determine access, affordability and program quality.”

“There is converging international evidence from developmental science and economics that indicates investment in early childhood education and care programs is socially and economically prudent,” she explains.

Professor Tayler will speak at early learning state conferences to be held by the Australian Council for Educational Research, together with Early Childhood Australia and Gowrie Victoria and Gowrie NSW, in Sydney on 26 March and Melbourne on 2 April. Her presentation will focus on teaching and learning strategies and tactics for working effectively with young children and families in the contemporary Australian policy reform agenda.