There is lots more that can be done to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non Indigenous cultures. This is especially the case in the early childhood education sector.
There have been several large developments in achieving significant improvements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing. These include significantly reducing infant mortality rates and increased rates of immunisation of Indigenous children under the age of five. These areas are both on target to achieving goals outlined by the Australian Government.
However, early education, school attendance, literacy and numeracy, employment, some areas of health and life expectancy are still areas where there is much improvement needed. These areas are far behind the goals set by the Australian Government.
Early education in particular is one area where there is under representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The current national agreement, detailed in the most recent Closing the Gap report has targeted a 95% preschool attendance rate for all Indigenous four-year-olds. This is a lofty goal, but work in reducing infant mortality rates and child vaccination demonstrate that such high targets are achievable.
The effects of early childhood education have been well documented in non Indigenous cultures. More recent studies have confirmed significant benefits of attending preschool for Indigenous children too. Reduced involvement with crime, better health outcomes and increased rates of finishing school are evident when children complete an early childhood education program.
A recent study looked at cognitive and developmental outcomes for Indigenous children participating in early childhood education. Children from an Indigenous background were observed both two years and three to five years after they finished a preschool program.
Strong evidence was revealed that preschool attendance has strong associations with numerical and literary achievement in the short term. These effects are evident in the long-term too: in areas of literacy, numeracy and abstract reasoning. Preschool attendance also results in positive long term developmental outcomes, especially in Indigenous children displaying little to no behavioural problems.
The greatest gaps in Indigenous preschool attendance are in regional and urban areas. The focus of previous research in this area in remote areas was inadequate. Indigenous children still attend preschool at much lower rates than non-Indigenous children.
One of the most important findings of the research was that the type of institution attended by children matters. So does the number of hours spent attending an early education program. A high quality early education begets far more positive effects on children than a low quality early childhood education.
Our current early education system is widening, not narrowing, gaps later in life. We know some of the reasons for this. These include income constraints, location, curriculum that isn’t always relevant, and experiences of discrimination. Without closing this gap, there is no hope that other gaps will be closed, regardless of how much money we spend.
At Robyn Taylor Childcare Centre and Early Learning we welcome all students from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds. We pay our respects to the traditional land owners and Indigenous elders past and present. Call us to arrange a time to come and visit our centre in Croydon or to ask any questions.
Through evidence based strategies, we seek to foster each child’s cognitive abilities, emotional resilience, sense of stability and motivation. We make sure all of our students are primary school ready and deliver positive life outcomes for all our students. We strive to achieve equality for all Indigenous Australians.
Designed by a child psychologist, the centre places particular emphasis on assisting every child to maximise their true potential. We are open for business between the hours of 7:30 and 6:30, Monday to Friday. Call us today on (02) 9705 8309 to make an enquiry or to schedule a visit to our centre.