International early childhood education expert, Professor Jane Bertrand, joined us in February for an intimate event in Melbourne. With early childhood education and care (ECEC) continuing to be a hot topic among policy makers, education peak bodies and industry leaders across Australia, there was plenty of interest in hearing Jane's views on what we should expect from quality ECEC programs.
Professor Bertrand is Program Director at the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation in Canada, which focuses on early childhood practices, policies and research. Co-author of Essentials of Early Childhood Education, Professor Bertrand led a team of Canadian researchers to create The Early Childhood Education Report to benchmark government policy and investment in ECEC. Her work has contributed to significant improvements in early learning research and delivery globally.
Quality early childhood education is proven to lift outcomes for all children but in Australia, early learning is often misunderstood.
A core focus of this event was what learning should look like in the years before school, including the benefits of play and friendship. All too often Australian policy makers, educators and families confuse improvements to ECEC with formalisation of the sector, instead of understanding that steps to improving quality need to include better delivery of warm, play-based experiences for young children. The importance of 'playful learning' experiences and supporting young children’s social and emotional development is detailed in our work on two years of preschool, which is an area where Australia is under-performing compared to international peers.