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2014, Volume 17, Special Issue: Early Childhood Policy

The Relationship between Early Childhood Education and Care and English Proficiency at School Entry for Bilingual Children in Australia

nzrece journal

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Full Reference
O'Connor, M., O'Connor, E.J., Kvalsvig, A., & Goldfeld, S. (2014). The relationship between early childhood education and care and English proficiency at school entry for bilingual children in Australia. NZ Research in Early Childhood Education Journal. Special Issue: Early Childhood Policy, 17, 161-181.


Original Policy Paper

The Relationship between Early Childhood Education and Care and English Proficiency at School Entry for Bilingual Children in Australia

Meredith O’Connor1,2, Elodie J. O’Connor1, Amanda Kvalsvig1 and Sharon Goldfeld1,2
1. Royal Children’s Hospital, Victoria, Australia
2. University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia



Children from diverse language backgrounds who enter school with limited proficiency in English may face additional challenges in negotiating this new context. Hence, it is important to consider what antecedent factors might promote English proficiency at school entry. Engagement with early childhood education and care (ECEC) programmes may be one such factor. Drawing on population-level data from the teacher-rated Australian Early Development Index (n=261,147), this study aims to explore the relationship between ECEC (including pre-school, day-care, and other informal non-parental care) and English proficiency at school entry for Australian children from bilingual backgrounds. The findings reveal that attendance at pre-school (OR=1.53, 95% CI=1.37-1.70) was associated with increased odds of being proficient in English at school entry for bilingual children, whereas attending day-care without a pre-school programme (OR=0.78, 95% CI=0.68-0.89), more informal non-parental care (OR=0.72, 95% CI=0.65-0.80), or parental care only (OR=0.59, 95% CI=0.52-0.67) was associated with decreased odds of proficiency in English at school entry. These findings suggest that engagement with pre-school programmes prior to school entry may well present a plausible and modifiable approach to improving English proficiency at school entry for bilingual children, with important implications for policy and programmes that aim to reduce inequality in skills at school entry.

Key words: Transition to school; bilingual; Australian Early Development Index (AEDI); school entry, ECE participation.


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