By Dr Sarah Alexander
1. The Plan
Education Minister Chris Hipkins outlines his intentions for an “Early Learning Strategic Plan” in a paper to cabinet, which are as follows:
“I propose to work with parents, teachers, and stakeholders, including kohanga reo whanau, to build on the previous version of Nga Huarahi Arataki – Pathways to the Future, the ten-year strategic plan for early childhood education that commenced in 2002 but was effectively discontinued by the previous Government in 2009.
“Pathways to the Future had three overarching goals:
- To promote participation in good quality early childhood education;
- To improve the quality of early childhood education; and
- To enhance collaborative relationships between early childhood education services, parent support and development, schools, health and social services.
“Four supporting strategies underpinned these goals: to review regulations, review the funding system; undertake ongoing research; and involve the sector in early childhood education policy development.
“I envisage that an important component of the new strategic plan will be creating a shared vision for what early learning should achieve for children and exploring what settings best support these outcomes. This includes the nature of the early childhood education market, along with the network which underpins it and the role of government in managing provision.”
Early learning strategic plan - the terms of reference for this is to be drawn up by March 2018 and a reference group formed. The Minister is to report to Cabinet in December 2018.
Review of home-based ECE - the terms of reference for this including the introduction of qualifications for all home-based education is to be drawn up by March 2018 and a reference group formed. A report is to be issued (presumably to the sector and public?) in December 2018. See discussion about the home-based ECE review
Education Workforce Strategy - the Minister of Education along with Ministry staff will prepare an approach to developing a future-focused Education Workforce Strategy (no dates for consultation and release have been stated). See another article by clicking here for discussion about this
Note the phrase above “a shared vision for what early learning should achieve”.
This could mean obtaining agreement on expectations for what children should be leaning and must learn at different ages, for example at age 4 a child will have learnt to write his or her own name.
But maybe Hipkins does not mean this – possibly he means creating a shared vision for what early childhood education and care services should achieve.
Notwithstanding the need for clarification, there is a critical element missing in the above – ‘care’. Care is central to what every early childhood service provides. Care sits alongside and cannot be separated from education. A child’s emotional, social and physical development cannot be separated from intellectual development and learning.
With older age groups care may be separated from education but in early childhood children’s learning cannot and should not be regarded separately without care.
4. Children's interests and rights
The Education to Be More report prepared by Dr Anne Meade and working group members for Hon David Lange in 1988 stated that three features lie “at the heart of all early childhood care and education services”, namely what meets the rights and needs of the children, providing women with real choice about whether or not they wish to re-enter the paid workforce or do something else, and features in the interests of cultural survival and transmission to succeeding generations.
The Education to Be More report emphasised the rights of children and stated that children have a right to live within their own family, whanau or aiga wherever possible.
The My ECE Code of the Rights for Children in ECE similarly states that children should be enabled wherever possible to receive care exclusively or primarily from parents and family/whanau. (read more)
Hipkins and those involved in writing the new Strategic Plan would be wise not to overlook or walk over children’s basic rights. Consideration also needs to be given to addressing current breaches of children’s rights (for example in the social obligation imposed on parents receiving benefits to leave their child in ECE for the purpose of getting ready to work, and policy that enables services to require parents to enrol their child for hours greater than 20 if accessing 20 Hours funding).
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