Early childhood and education services for Indigenous children prior to starting school

Early childhood and education services for Indigenous children prior to starting school Report

Resource Sheet

  • Author(s): Margaret Sims
  • Published: 2011
  • Publisher: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare & Australian Institute of Family Studies
  • Volume: Closing the Gap Clearinghouse

Abstract: The National Partnership Agreement for Indigenous Early Childhood Development aims to halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade, halve the gap for Indigenous students in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade, and ensure all Indigenous 4-yearolds have access to quality early childhood education within five years, including in remote areas. Currently 75% of Indigenous children between 3.5 and 4.5 years of age do not attend any formal early childhood service. Of those who do, 34% are attending a community-based (i.e. non-school) program, 30% a kindergarten or pre-first year of school program in a school setting or a preschool, 21% a child care program and 2% family day care. Of the infant cohort, 29% had attended a playgroup or similar group in the month prior to data collection. Alternative care was provided for the children by the child’s other parent (51%), grandparents (49%), other relatives (30%) and a parent living elsewhere (6%). In order to achieve these targets it is important to understand that early childhood education cannot be separated from child, family and community health and wellbeing. In acting on this understanding, Indigenous early childhood programs in Australia are sometimes interpreted as ‘leading the way’ in current attempts to reinterpret early childhood education as a strategy to address social inclusion. Internationally, such a perspective is often positioned as quality early intervention or, more recently, integrated service delivery which is known to be particularly effective for addressing disadvantage. Addressing disadvantage in the early years requires a holistic approach that addresses children and families in the context of their communities and cultures, taking into account children’s physical and mental health, emotional wellbeing and development. This means, in considering Indigenous early education, non-Indigenous policy makers and service deliverers need to clearly understand their assumptions based on experiences with non-Indigenous early education. For example, in non-Indigenous contexts early education services are often perceived to be primarily centre-based learning programs such as long day care services, kindergartens and preschools whose role it is to prepare children for school. There is no doubt that readiness for school is a key factor in closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, but it is not the only factor to consider and programs are now beginning to address issues such as family support and the provision of non-centre-based services.

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Suggested Citation
Margaret Sims, 2011, Early childhood and education services for Indigenous children prior to starting school, Volume:Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, Report, viewed 03 December 2023, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=3435.

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