Victoria and NSW children will get an extra year of early education, Victoria's "pre-prep" will be rolled out in 2025, with "pre-kindergarten" being implemented in NSW from 2030, each focusing on play-based learning.
While positive about the programs’ impact on children’s education experts say there are some issues to be overcome, like staffing.
Professor Pasi Sahlberg of Southern Cross University and former director general of the Finnish education system says, "There is strong research evidence that high quality early childhood education before formal primary education starts benefits all children, and that it can be critically important to children from disadvantaged backgrounds who currently don’t have access to good early education and care."
"A significant part of that evidence is from Nordic countries where high quality play-based early childhood education has been in place already for several decades. In Finland, for example, high quality pre-school education is considered a basic right of the child and a bedrock of equitable education outcomes. The current Finnish Government is now adding an extra year of high-quality early childhood education, or pre-school education, for all children by 2024."
A key condition for success is the quality of early childhood education and that won’t happen without high quality teacher education.
“If the quality standard of teachers is not met by 2030, this reform will not meet its goals. The other condition is the meaning of play-based early childhood education and how to convince all parents that play can actually benefit their children’s learning and wellbeing as well or better than traditional formal instruction."
Ms Rachael Hedger at Flinders University, a lecturer in Early Childhood Education, and Course Coordinator for the Early Childhood Initial Teacher Education degrees at Flinders University says staffing will be a challenge
"The key issue here will be the current educator shortage. With an estimated 39,000 additional educators needed by 2023, we need to look at quality teacher education and how we can effectively staff this initiative and educate Australia’s children to the best of our abilities.
"Key to this initiative is that we provide children with effective educators who can provide an enriching, play-based early learning program, as we know that children reach their full potential through play.
"The overhaul is a guaranteed boost for the economy, offering more choice for working mothers, and long-term investments into our youngest citizens who are the future of Australia’s economic success."