Australia’s poor ECEC performance in latest OECD report concerning, advocacy groups say

Australia’s poor ECEC performance in latest OECD report concerning, advocacy groups say

by Freya Lucas

September 20, 2021

Australia has ranked at 41 out of 44 countries when it comes to preschool attendance, the newly released Education at a Glance 2021 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has revealed, something which a number of advocacy groups, including Thrive by Five and the Australian Education Union have termed concerning.


The data, Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe said, points to the urgent need for reform in the early years, a perspective backed up by the Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five initiative CEO Jay Weatherill. 


“Australia is falling behind the rest of the world and there is an urgent need for government action to ensure we catch up,” Mr Weatherill said, pointing to the “significant barriers” which prevent families from enrolling their children in preschool, including high out-of-pocket costs, inconsistent provision of preschool and a complex system that is difficult to navigate.


“The OECD Education at a Glance report is the latest of many years of reports and inquiries that show Australia needs to do more to reduce those barriers,” he said.


Education at a Glance 2021 noted that Australia is spending half the OECD average of 0.6 per cent of GDP on pre-primary education for three to five year olds, an amount which is “equal third lowest” of all OECD nations. 


In contrast, Australia has the fourth highest levels of reliance on parents paying out of pocket costs to fund pre-primary education, another point of concern for both Thrive by Five and the AEU. 


“Not only are our youngest children at risk of being left behind their peers internationally, many will miss out on the lifelong benefits of early learning,” Ms Haythorpe said.


To review the OECD report in full, please see here