Where are the policy announcements for early learning?
30 August 2017
Early childhood education is conspicuous by its absence from current political debate on education, says Te Rito Maioha
Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ) Chief Executive Kathy Wolfe.
“From the recent education policy announcements by the National party government and opposition parties, you would think
that our tamariki’s education doesn’t begin until they step through the door of their first primary school.”
“No government is going to materially improve educational achievement at primary and secondary school unless it tackles
head-on our country’s persistent underinvestment in quality teaching in early childhood education.
“There is good evidence that high-quality teaching for under-fives leads to better performance at later stages of
schooling. Qualified early childhood teachers understand how to engage our youngest learners by channelling children’s
natural curiosity and playfulness. And you can see the difference in the reading and maths results of 12 year-olds
between those who experienced quality early childhood education and those who didn’t.
“By our reckoning, restoring the $260 million lost to early childhood education since 2010 would lead to a measurable
improvement in standards when the current cohort of under-fives progresses to primary school level.
“Research in the US suggests that for every dollar invested in early childhood education there is a return of $7-$12
from better outcomes later in life. But all we are hearing from politicians centres on initiatives to address the
problems that manifest in compulsory schooling, many of which can be attributed to underinvestment in early learning.
“We believe the Government must commit to work towards funding for 100% qualified teaching staff in teacher-led centres.
We also believe Government should reduce the teacher to child ratios for under-twos to align with international best
“The ongoing underinvestment in early childhood education is not just short-changing teachers as well as children and
their families. It is short-changing the future prospects of all New Zealanders. Elections provide an opportunity to set
a new course for the future. However, it remains to be seen which political party, if any, will make any meaningful
commitment to our youngest learners.
“We think it is well past time for a New Zealand government to make early learning matter,” Kathy Wolfe said.