The economics of kindergarten

The economics of kindergarten

22 Jun 2011

States and territories have agreed that every child would have access to 15 hours of kindergarten each week by 2013, but the Victorian State Government has recently called this proposal underfunded with too short a timeline.

numbersThe children and families of Victoria may have to wait even longer for these proposed improvements in preschool education, says La Trobe University’s Associate Professor Buly Cardak, School of Economics and Finance.

‘It appears the state government is unhappy with the financial arrangement negotiated by the previous government seeking to renegotiate with the Commonwealth. The states and territories agreed to this in 2008 and it is surprising that it has taken the Victorian government almost three years to realise that they are not going to be able to meet the timeline,’ says Dr Cardak.

Researchers in the United States conducted the High/Scope Education Research Foundation's Perry Preschool Project, a longitudinal preschool-effectiveness study that followed children aged 3-4years old on to adulthood. It found the lifetime economic benefits of preschool program participants, families, and the community far outweigh the economic cost.

The study compared two groups of children, one group would attend two hours of preschool everyday and the other group would not. An independent economist concluded that for every dollar spent on preschool, society will get back up to 300 dollars over a lifetime.

La Trobe University early Childhood Education Coordinator, Dr Jennifer Masters says it is well recognized that early childhood education is a crucial experience that starts a child on a learning journey.

‘A supportive kindergarten experience allows a child along with his or her family to engage with education as a foundation for life-long learning. This experience is then built on when the child moves into more formal settings. To restrict this development is like building a house without considering the footings.

‘As a teacher education provider we aim to produce strongly qualified teachers to staff the extra hours promised by government.  Unless the funding is available to employ teachers on pay parity rates equivalent to school teachers, it is unlikely that enough kindergarten opportunities will ever be available to families who are most at risk in the education system,’ says Dr Masters.

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