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  • UNICEF report slates Australia's failing childcare
  • The Australian
  • 12/12/2008 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: The Rooster ( 264 articles in 2008 )
AUSTRALIA has the third-worst childcare and early learning system in the developed world, a new international report finds.

The Australian reports our early childhood services sit above only Canada and Ireland on a league table of OECD countries to be published today by the United Nations' children's rights arm, UNICEF.

Using 10 benchmarks, including the amount of GDP spent on early childhood services, the availability of paid parental leave and the subsidies provided for childcare and education, the report ranks Mexico, Slovenia and Portugal higher than Australia.

Australia meets just two benchmarks, accreditation for early learning staff and the provision of subsidised childcare services for at least 25 per cent of children under three.

The report, The Child Care Transition, says poor quality care "has the potential for both immediate and long-term harm" to children, and warns that some countries provide childcare "in an ad hoc way with minimal assurances of quality".

Children in poorer homes are often hit with the "double disadvantage" of lower quality childcare and deprivation at home in terms of learning opportunities, it says.

The study also questions the safety of formal childcare in the first 12 months, saying there is "a broad consensus that childcare that is 'too early and too long' can be damaging".

"The younger the child and the longer the hours in care, the greater the risk," it says.

"In some instances and for some children, the long-term effects may include depression, withdrawal, inability to concentrate and other forms of mental ill-health.

"In a larger number of less obvious cases, the result is likely to be less optimal cognitive and linguistic development and under-achievement at school," it says, drawing on a range of international scientific and psychological studies.

Early childhood expert Elspeth McInnes says she isn't surprised Australia sits so low in the rankings.

"We are hampered because we treat childcare as a labour market device to allow parents to work rather than encouraging it to be a quality experience for children in its own right," says Dr McInnes, a lecturer in early childhood education at the University of South Australia.

"Other countries have become a lot more aware of the significance of brain development and the importance to it of quality experiences while children are between zero and six," she says.

"It's when we do 90 per cent of our brain development."

Source: https://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,24789086-421,00.html


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