Australian Early Childhood Educators: From Government Policy to University Practice

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Published: 
Feb. 01, 2013

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Volume 34, Issue 1, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current article provides an overview of the Australian Federal Government initiatives in the area of early childhood with regard to the provision of early childhood education and care.

Recent Early Childhood Policy Changes in Australia

In Australia, new national early childhood reforms have resulted.
These include the Melbourne Declaration prepared by all Australian Education Ministers that describes the social and economic benefits of improving educational outcomes for young children.
As well, there have been major policy changes in Australia driven by the Council of Australia Government (COAG).
In 2009, the Council of Australian Governments endorsed the National Early Childhood Development Strategy.
The Strategy provides a national framework through which Government can engage parents to further their understanding of development and care and it supports the improvement of the early childhood infrastructure thereby ensuring strengthening of the workforce, and support for children who may be at risk.

In 2010, the Education and Care Service National Law Act 2010 (Vic) institutionalized a National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care and with it set new standards for long day care, family day care, preschool (kindergarten in some jurisdictions ( and out-of-school hours care.
Through these Agreements, the Commonwealth, States and Territories are working together to ensure universal access to quality early childhood education in the years before school.
In the process, standards for professional education have also been raised in ways that will improve on existing arrangements and assist in delivering educational leadership across services and the early education and care sector.

Recent Australian policies, reforms, and curriculum documents show there is an increasing need for educators to recognise the social, cultural and political influences on teaching and learning.
Interpretation of policy documents and initiatives that essentially reflect the culture and values of a community that they emerge from have a direct impact on tertiary education programs. These changes have influenced a Western Australian university to develop an innovative birth to 8 years preservice educator education curriculum.

One University’s Approach to Embracing New Policy
The current Curtin University 4-year undergraduate program focuses on children from birth to 8, but beginning in 2013, the structure of this program will be revolutionized.
The revisions to the early childhood preservice teacher education program at Curtin University reflect the changing environment of learning in the early childhood education and care sector in Australia.
Preservice educators enrolled in the new course will carefully explore government policies, initiatives, and legislative requirements as they simultaneously develop a rich understanding of how these documents influence curriculum, promote quality care, and support the achievement of high-quality outcomes for children.

Using an Ecological Approach to Education Reform
This new focus comes in response to mounting evidence of growing demand for early childhood care and education.
University establishments, then, need to ensure preservice educators are fully prepared to work with young children and their families.
During the degree course, preservice educators will be given opportunities to work with children, build partnerships with parents and collaborate with other professionals enabling clear links to be made between current research, theory, and practice.
Through these interactions preservice educators will be also be able to critically reflect on the vital role they play in providing quality early childhood education and integrating early childhood education and care services.

Conclusion

The demand for skilled and qualified staff in the early learning sector is apparent but the new early childhood education program at Curtin University will support broader reforms in the early childhood profession as it will promote the responsibility that educators have as advocates for children thereby also endorsing society’s responsibility to support young children and their families.
A well-educated work force reinforces and strengthens the success of any reforms and informed graduates of the program will potentially be in a position to be a positive and powerful influence in promoting the importance of quality early childhood education and care as the foundation of a nation’s success.
Well-prepared graduates from the new early childhood degree course will know that the future of early childhood education does not rest with merely reframing their beliefs or making changes to their practice to fit with policies; they will understand that as educators they must embrace a vision of themselves as reflective learners who are able to contribute to future policy change.

The author claims that it has become increasingly clear that strong, coordinated, research-informed early childhood education has become an essential facet of the government’s social and human capital investment in the country’s future economy.
Well-prepared early childhood educators are key in this process.
The program redesign at Curtin University is one example of a way in which academics involved in program development at universities can interpret policy, recognize change and act on this change by reforming and implementing appropriate courses of study.
Critical to this process is ongoing research that enables teacher educators to monitor and adjust curricula so as to ensure that future educators have the necessary knowledge and the skills to support young children and their families in ways that enable full participation in the life of the country.

Updated: Jul. 14, 2014
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