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Childrens rights to quality early childhood education Anne B. Smith Emeritus Professor University of Otago College of Education.

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Presentation on theme: "Childrens rights to quality early childhood education Anne B. Smith Emeritus Professor University of Otago College of Education."— Presentation transcript:

1 Childrens rights to quality early childhood education Anne B. Smith Emeritus Professor University of Otago College of Education

2 Questions How well are we doing in childrens rights to quality early childhood education? Is there any point in increasing participation in ECE if quality is being watered down? Is the best way to target resources at vulnerable children (priority children) rather than providing accessible, affordable services for all?

3 History of ECE in NZ Proud history – trends towards increased status, recognition and funding Care and education are seen as inseparable Integrated services Successfully implemented strategic plan to improve quality and improve participation

4 Rights Rights are claims that are justifiable on legal or moral grounds to have or to obtain something or to act in a certain way (James & James, 2008, p.109). General Comment 7 –young childrens rights important because the experiences of the early years have a long term impact on childrens lives. Early childhood is a critical period for realizing childrens rights (Para 6). Rights to quality ECE linked to several other important rights (2, 6, 19, 28/29, 12/13)

5 How are we doing in Education Rights? NZ ranked 4 th in literacy, 5 th in numeracy and 4 th science (PISA at age of 15) NZ ranked highest in difference in reading scores according to SES –we are not doing well for the poorest children 95% of new entrants have attended an ECE centre; 90.9% for Māori, 86.8% for Pasifika; shift to longer hours; 6 th highest in OECD for participation rates; Ranked 9 th out of 45 countries for ECE by Economist Intelligence Unit (affordability, accessibility and quality); Improvements in quality as a result of strategic plan.

6 A Side Effect of Policies Rapid expansion of private-for-profit centres (identical entitlement to funding); 47% growth of private services (2007 to 2011), cf 2.8% in community sector; Profits to owners or to shareholders; Poorer salaries, working conditions, services located in higher income areas in private sector.

7 Directions for change Labour:Improving quality & participationNational: Fiscal Restraints and Targeting

8 What is Quality? No one true way of measuring it Involves cultural values and goals Measured aspects of quality include:- Structural aspects – ratio, group size and training Process quality – reciprocal, responsive, warm engagement with children, sustained shared thinking, affirming culture, language, identity

9 Impact of ECE More powerful impact from family/whānau But huge weight of international evidence of long term benefits of participation in quality ECE on development and learning outcomes Evidence that participation in low quality ECE is harmful – particularly for low SES children No point in increasing participation without maintaining and improving quality

10 Investment in ECE

11 James Heckman – Nobel Laureate Skills beget skills. All capabilities are built on a foundation of capacities that are developed earlier. This principle stems from two characteristics that are intrinsic to the nature of learning… First, early learning confers value on acquired skills, which leads to self- reinforcing motivation to learn more. Early mastery of a range of cognitive, social, and emotional competencies makes learning at later ages more efficient and therefore easier and more likely to continue (Heckman, 2011, p. 6).

12 Esping-Andersen – Swedish economist Investment in quality ECE reduces inequalities and minimises social exclusion Poverty inherited from generation to generation unless there is intervention Cultural capital also inherited Education systems are inherently biased towards middle-class Nordic countries have reduced the inheritance of poverty (a poor child in Denmark achieves 4 times better than a poor child in Germany)

13 Universal or Targeted Services? There is clear evidence that universal access to quality ECEC is more beneficial than interventions targeted exclusively at vulnerable groups. Targeting ECEC poses problems because it is difficult in practice to identify the target group reliably, it tends to stigmatise its beneficiaries and can even lead to segregation at later stages of education. Targeted services are also at more risk of cancellation than universal ones. (European Commission, 2011, p.5)

14 Problems with Targeting Difficult to identify most high-risk families High transaction costs Stigmatization of targeted families Greater gains when all children participate (middle class children benefit from ECE too) Participation in mixed SES ECE centres most beneficial for low SES children Majority of OECD countries now provide 2 years of universal free ECE (Barnett, 2011; Esping-Andersen, 2008)

15 Moves towards Targeting Green Paper (2011) on vulnerable children favours identifying 15% most vulnerable Children viewed in terms of their vulnerabilities and deficits Danger of ignoring their resilience and strengths Violation of privacy rights White paper similar views – no mention of childrens rights ECE Taskforce (2011) recommends funding system with strongly differentiated subsidies for priority children Current ECE policies targeted at increasing participation forpriority children

16 Recent Erosion of Quality in ECE Ratios – government rescinded previously agreed to ratio changes to lower ratios for 2 to 2 ½ year-olds and ignored recommendations of 2008 review Qualifications – cessation of additional funding for centres with 100% qualified staff, abandoning goal of 100% qualified staff Curriculum Support – Budget 2009 removed funding to support Te Whariki and Kei Tua o te Pae

17 Erosion of Quality (cont) Centres of Innovation – new ideas of best practice projects, resources and support for excellent practice and its dissemination in 2009 Group Size – In 2011 the regulations were changed so that ECEC centres can now operate with 150 children over 2 yrs and 75 children under 1 yr (previously 50 for over 2s and 75 for under 1s.

18 BUDGET: 20 th May 2010 Budget a bitter blow for quality Preschool costs to rise Early childhood educators devastated ECE budget brutal blow to children and families Budget launches attack on quality teaching for youngest learners Black Budget for Early Childhood Education Childcare funding slashed Early Childhood Education Being Targeted by National For Funding Cuts 22/4/10


20 Qualification and quality divides It is a matter of personal belief as to whether a high proportion of all centre staff should be trained teachers. John Key, Prime Minister, 2010 It is a matter of an informed and evidence-based educational decision. These questions would never be raised about adults who teach 5-6 (or older) year- olds in school…. We had hoped that 100% qualified teachers for all children in EC made us different from other countries ….and would contribute to the governments aim of equitable and quality outcomes for children from all backgrounds. Margaret Carr and Linda Mitchell, 2010.

21 Recent Research (Meade et al, 2012) To compare the quality of centres with 100% qualified staff and centres with 80% qualified staff. 100% qualified centres More open-ended questions; More engagement in sustained shared thinking; Children more independent and more focused.

22 Compulsory ECE for children of beneficiaries All beneficiary parents will be required to send their children to for at least 15 hours a week from age three - a way to ensure children of beneficiaries "get the best possible start in life". flexibility for social sector agency staff to work with these parents to make suitable arrangements. a graduated sanction system where parents would receive reminders of their obligations before losing half of benefits.

23 Conclusions Universal provision of ECE helps ensure childrens education, development, survival and non discrimination rights (especially in context of inequality) We must maintain and improve rather than erode quality Participation is important but quality is more important Additional resources for some children and families needed, but should be against a background of universal provision Important to maintain NZs status as a world leader in ECE, rather than diminish it by introducing a targeted approach

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