Resist the urge to make preschool school, ELACCA says
In the wake of media commentary calling for three-year-old children to participate in more formal, structured learning to better prepare them for school, the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) has reiterated that “early learning is NOT about sitting behind desks”.
“The nation’s largest preschool providers have rejected suggestions that preschool is the same as school. Unfortunately some recent media reports have confused early learning with school,” ELACCA CEO Elizabeth Death said.
“A preschool program is all about play with a curriculum designed to maximise every child’s unique learning. It is not formal ‘sitting at desks’ schooling.”
Ms Death emphasised the importance of play-based learning in supporting children to develop critical thinking, problem solving, and language and social skills, saying that these important skill sets were developed through activities such as building a tower of blocks with a friend, constructing with recycled materials, playing in the water trough, or climbing on the outdoor play equipment.
“More than 80 per cent of a child’s brain has developed before children start formal schooling, and we know that the greatest window of opportunity for that growth is between 3-5 years of age,” Ms Death said.
“The opportunity to experience age-appropriate, play-based learning under the guidance of degree qualified early childhood teachers grows confident, capable and curious young learners,” Ms Death said.
Whilst the emphasis on the value of early learning was welcomed, with one in five Australian children currently starting school developmentally behind their peers, ELACCA used the statement to emphasise the value of play-based learning in this space, and that there were stylistic differences between formal and structured school learning, and the work children undertake in the years before school.
“All Australian children should have an opportunity to access and benefit from two years of quality early learning to establish the critical skills that will launch them into learning and ensure a smooth transition to a formal school environment, their education journey and long-term employment, health and wellbeing,” Ms Death said.
More information about the campaign to fund two years of access to early learning can be found here.