Two years of preschool could be smart booster for Australia

Providing two years of preschool for all children is one of the best investments Australia can make to boost our entire education system and secure a stronger future.

Mitchell Institute at Victoria University Director, Megan O’Connell explained that giving all children access to two years of quality preschool programs could support young people to meet critical education milestones and, ultimately, lift national productivity.

“There is mounting evidence showing that two years of quality preschool helps children thrive in school and later in life,” Ms O’Connell said.

“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.

“Each year around 60,000 Australian children – one in five – start school behind, and nearly half of these children starting behind stay behind. This puts a strain on teachers and students at school, can lead to behavioural problems and cause social and health issues later in life.

“An extra year of preschool can be transformative for vulnerable children but all children benefit. 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.

“Extending preschool into a second year is a minor cost compared to the almost half a billion dollars spent each year on 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.

“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.

“We have invested significantly in schooling and in some areas of higher education to keep up with international competition and changing global standards while being one of the only OECD counties without two years of preschool.

“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.

“Australian governments have done great work ensuring almost all 4 year olds access preschool, so we are well-placed to do the same for 3 year olds.”

Mitchell Institute has advocated extensively to improve Australian early childhood education, including publishing a landmark report outlining why an additional year of preschool would benefit Australia: Preschool –Two years are better than one. ENDS