OECD report: early learning boosts performance but Australia lagging
A new report shows Australia lagging behind many OECD nations in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) enrolment rates for three and four year olds, despite strong evidence supporting the long term benefits of early education.
Of the 37 OECD nations Australia sits in 26th and 27th place for three and four year old enrolments respectively, faring slightly better in 15th place for enrolments of children under the age of three.
The data has been released in the OECD’s Starting Strong 2017 report. The findings build on existing evidence
of the positive effect that early learning has in the primary school years, showing that the benefit still exists in 15 year olds in almost all OECD countries.
The report also says that disadvantaged children benefit the most and targeting them for support would generate the highest returns for governments.
“Giving all children access to high-quality early education and care will lay the foundations for future skill development, boost social mobility and support inclusive growth,” said Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff at the report’s launch in Mexico.
The report is the result of 15 years of OECD data gathering and policy analysis and brings together all key ECEC indicators in the one volume.
Five key insights from the report are intended to help shape policy decisions and government investment:
Better salaries and working conditions
This is needed to attract and retain young people to the profession, yet only in Austria, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Turkey and the United Kingdom are 25% or more of pre-primary teachers aged under 30.
Increased career income potential
Despite needing at least a bachelor’s degree in most countries, ECEC teachers earn less than their peers in secondary education or higher, and only 74% of the average salary of a tertiary-educated, full-time worker. Nine out of ten pre-primary teachers are women across the OECD, compared to around four in ten at the tertiary level.
Making quality childcare more affordable would help more mothers with very young children return to work and achieve a better work life balance. More than 70% of mothers in Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Switzerland work ─ these countries also have the highest rates of children enrolled in formal childcare.
Parental engagement is key
Helping children learn at home and having more contact between teaching staff and parents is strongly associated with children’s later academic success and socio-emotional development.
Disadvantaged children benefit most
Quality ECEC will benefit disadvantaged children the most, particularly by providing the basis for successful lifelong learning and by fostering their socioemotional skills.
The full report
can be accessed through the OECD website.