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EDUCATION / NOV ‘2018

Three years old: Too young for school?

How would YOU feel about sending your three year old to pre-school?

The prospect of seeing your little one grow up and seeing them off for their first day of school can often be bittersweet. That familiar feeling that time really does fly is especially present in these moments, so many parents would be understandably hesitant about their child starting pre-school at the age of three.

Words Melissa Warland

But this is exactly the plan that Bill Shorten announced at the beginning of October: a $1.75 billion subsidy for parents to allow 15 hours of pre-school for three year olds. So far, the proposal has proven a contentious topic among parents.

In unveiling this plan that is set to be implemented if Labor win the next election, the opposition leader believes it will transform childcare into “early education”.

Labor also framed the proposed subsidy as an important jump start into school, and are working by the angle that children who receive high quality education in the two years leading up to the start of their formal schooling experience long lasting positive outcomes.

That is, starting our kids in pre-school at the age of three has a supposedly high impact on their educational development for many years after.

Overall, if the plan was put into place, it would mean that it would be free for us to send our three year olds to state government run pre-school, and sending them to pre-school education at private childcare centres would be subsidised.

Shorten made it clear that the main objective of his plan was to get 90% of the three year
olds in Australia in pre-school by 2023.

That can be hard to fathom considering those children haven’t even been conceived yet!

The opposition also highlighted Australian children in comparison to foreign children of the same age, stating that Australia was behind in its pre-school education because several other countries already had high attendance rates in pre-school for three year olds.

So far, the proposal has been met with mixed reactions.

Parents have been quick to voice their concerns across social media, with many calling it ridiculous and unnecessary, or that it’s simply too young.

The Project’s Facebook post regarding the topic has received several hundred comments in a couple of weeks. It seems there are only few fence sitters, if any…

Phrases along the lines of “let kids be kids” and “what’s the point of having children?” are frequent, with many expressing the importance of letting children learn and develop at home. There are a number of people who also believe that the money could be better spent in other areas of education of their children, such as tertiary education in the future. One comment in particular even goes so far as to say that “danger of abuse” is evident.

It seems the conversation has also expanded to consider the logistics involved, with one woman pointing out that the proposal should not go ahead simply on the basis that staff in this area are already “underpaid and undervalued”.

On the other hand, others think it’s a good idea and will help take the pressure off working families and ease the cost of living. Many parents are also focusing on the educational format and content itself, and are advocates for the benefits of education at such an early age. Several comments support the Labor government’s way of thinking, with one mum stating that “early childhood education benefits all children”.

A number of people believe that pre-school education for three year olds can be positive in terms of social, mental and cognitive outcomes, and provides an invaluable preparation for the schooling lives of children.

This leaves us to ponder; is this proposal in the best interests of three year olds? Would we be comfortable sending our children to pre-school at an earlier age? Does the education system of other countries matter?

Where do YOU sit on this topic?