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It pays to invest 600 hours of education per year for 3-year-olds – report

Early childhood education = Lifelong benefits. Source: Shutterstock

Exposing toddlers to formal education can pay off significantly for Australia, a new report on early childhood intervention has found.

Quality education at a younger age improves their chances to do better in school, to graduate and to eventually get jobs with higher pay in future. These are benefits accepted widely in the international sphere, according to the report titled “Lifting Our Game” released Thursday.

However, the country’s current investment in this area is below the OECD average. The report describes this as “a missed opportunity” for Australia.

“It is possible to reap a double dividend from this investment, to support a child’s learning and development as well as a parent’s workforce participation.”

Commissioned by state and territory governments, the review proposes that every three-year-old in Australia gets a minimum of 15 hours per week of early childhood education.

Expanding access to quality early childhood education, such as preschool for all three-year-olds, could be “the single most impactful reform Australia could undertake”. Many studies support this suggestion,  which could bring returns two to four times the cost, the report wrote.

Victoria’s Minister for Early Childhood Education, Jenny Mikakos, agrees with this pitch.

“It’s time Malcolm Turnbull backs the report’s recommendations and locks in adequate and permanent funding for early childhood education,” she said, as quoted by ABC.

“If Turnbull refuses — it not only hurts our kids, but it could also result in Victorian parents paying an extra AUD2,000 a year for alternative childcare arrangements.”

The perks go beyond financial benefits to the state and territorial governments.

Students from vulnerable or disadvantaged groups stand to benefit from targeted early childhood intervention programs too. Twenty-two percent of students now start school from a “developmentally vulnerable” position.

“Support for these children is vital – children who start school behind their peers stay behind. Quality early childhood education can help stop this from happening, and break the cycle of disadvantage.”

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Neuroscience shows it is these years before school that is key to a student’s cognitive development. ie. how they communicate, adapt, socialise then lays the foundations for their future life skills and success.

Other recommendations in the report include engaging parents and community better on the importance of the early years, ensuring Universal Access and National Quality Framework are properly funded and resourced, as well as addressing the workforce issues to deliver these objectives.

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