.

  • Written by Jen Jackson, Education Policy Lead, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University
First, a child must have access to a preschool in their local area, and a family willing and able to enrol them. from shutterstock.com

A report released last week showed quality preschool would deliver a two-for-one return on investment for Australia: that is, for every dollar governments invest in preschool, two dollars will be returned to the economy.

Commissioned by early childhood research organisation the Front Project, and conducted by data analysts PwC, the analysis looked at the impact of Australia’s current system, which provides 15 hours a week of early childhood education in the year before school.

The report is the first comprehensive Australian analysis of the economic impact of early childhood education. It adds a uniquely Australian perspective to the international evidence base about the benefits of investing in preschool.

Research on return on investment in early learning became prominent in the mid-2000s, and drove a global reform agenda to invest more in early childhood education and care. US economist James Heckman has since famously found high-quality support for early learning can deliver US$13 for every dollar spent over a lifetime.

But the promised returns on investment in preschool won’t just happen. They depend on a complex chain of events, from preschool through to adulthood, involving the child and their family.

The chain of events

Here’s what needs to happen for an Australian child, and the Australian economy, to reap the two-for-one return.

First, the child must have access to a preschool in their local area, and a family willing and able to enrol them. Their family must also be able to transport them to and from the preschool each day.

The economic benefits increase if the adults in the family decide to increase their hours of paid work while the child attends preschool. This depends on meaningful work being available for parents, which would fit with the availability of the preschool program.

Second, the preschool must be of high-enough quality to make a difference to the child’s learning and development. International studies emphasise benefits are most likely to be delivered by quality preschools – low-quality preschools will not have the same impact.


Read more: Both major parties are finally talking about the importance of preschool – here's why it matters


Quality preschools run play-based learning programs in which children are encouraged to discover and explore. These play experiences provide opportunities for children to develop essential skills such as co-operation, concentration, problem-solving and self-control.

Quality standards for Australian preschools are set out in the National Quality Standard.

Third, if the preschool gets the child off to a good start, then the school system must also be of sufficient quality to sustain the gains in their learning. This is easiest if the child lives in a family where there is strong support for learning, but harder to sustain when home support is limited.

Fourth, if the child can sustain their learning advantage, the next set of economic benefits are delivered through their participation in tertiary education. To realise this benefit, there needs to be a place for them in university, or in quality vocational education and training.

And finally, the full set of economic benefits are delivered when that child (now a young adult) takes their tertiary qualification into the labour market. For these benefits to be realised, there needs to be a healthy supply of jobs for tertiary graduates for which the young adult is well-prepared.


Read more: Jobs are changing, and fast. Here's what the VET sector (and employers) need to do to keep up


Strengthening the chain in Australia

Every weak link in this chain reduces the overall economic gains. A quick scan of the Australian policy environment shows some clear opportunities for the chain to be strengthened.

Any weak link in the chain threatens the opportunity for a full return on investment. from shutterstock.com

National funding for access to preschool in the year before school continues to be agreed year-by-year, rather than as a sustained commitment. So the very first link in the chain is loose. Despite major gains in participation, around 10% of Australian children still don’t attend preschool.

Of the early childhood services that provide preschool, 7% of stand-alone preschools and 21% of long day care services don’t yet meet the National Quality Standard.

Lower-quality early childhood services are disproportionately located in poorer communities, where they are needed the most.


Read more: Preschool benefits all children, but not all children get it. Here's what the government can do about that


Australia’s schools deliver unequal benefits for learners from different backgrounds. The widening gap between wealthier and poorer children suggests schools aren’t sufficiently equipped to support children who need extra support to sustain their learning.

Overall participation rates in tertiary education are projected to decline under current policy settings. If we produce more great learners at earlier stages of learning, there need to be tertiary places for them.

Lastly, Australia’s labour market is facing significant challenges in providing meaningful full-time work for young people, even those with a tertiary qualification. The costs of youth unemployment are significant, and mean the potential economic benefits of their education are squandered.

It’s about more than dollars

Even with weak links in the chain, investment in preschool can still deliver returns. The Front Project report tests a number of versions of its economic modelling and finds preschool is still a worthwhile investment, even under less optimistic scenarios about its long-term effects.

Investment in early learning is not just about economic returns. At the centre of each scenario is a child who has a right to receive support from the government to help them learn and thrive.


Read more: Three things Australia's next education minister must prioritise to improve schools


The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Australia ratified in 1990, recognises children’s right to education, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals recognise the importance of quality early childhood education and care in delivering that right to all children.

Governments willingly invest in school education, recognising the right to education means they have an obligation to their youngest citizens. Yet government investment in early childhood education in Australia still seems to depend heavily on economic arguments.

While these arguments may be important for engaging policy-makers with their eye on the budget, there are other compelling reasons to provide Australian children with quality early learning.

Jen Jackson has previously received funding from the Australian Research Council for research on the Australian early childhood workforce.

Authors: Jen Jackson, Education Policy Lead, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University

Read more http://theconversation.com/report-finds-every-1-australia-spends-on-preschool-will-return-2-but-this-wont-just-magically-happen-120217

Plants are going extinct up to 350 times faster than the historical norm

Plant extinctions have skyrocketed, driven in large part by land clearing and climate change. Graphic Node/Unsplash, CC BY-SAEarth is seeing an unprecedented loss of species, which some ecologists are...

Jaco Le Roux, Associate Professor, Macquarie University - avatar Jaco Le Roux, Associate Professor, Macquarie University

Vital Signs: economically, Australia is at risk of becoming Germany, and not in a good way

Once, emulating Germany would be something to be proud of. Not at the moment. ShutterstockIt’s four years since then Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned Australia had been heading to “a Gree...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

'What is wrong with me? I'm never happy and I hate school'

Remember, there is always someone to talk to about these things. Wes Mountain Hi, I was just wondering if something’s wrong with me because I’m never happy and never want to do anything a...

Louise Remond, Clinical Psychologist, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Louise Remond, Clinical Psychologist, University of Technology Sydney

Friday essay: how a Bengali book in Broken Hill sheds new light on Australian history

The large book bearing a handwritten English label, 'The Holy Koran', was not a Quran, but a 500-page volume of Bengali Sufi poetry. Samia KhatunSome 1,000 kilometres inland from Sydney, over the Blu...

Samia Khatun, Senior Lecturer, SOAS, University of London - avatar Samia Khatun, Senior Lecturer, SOAS, University of London

Unlawful strip searches are on the rise in NSW and police aren’t being held accountable

Being strip searched by the police can be intrusive, humiliating and harmful. Typically, strip searches involve being required to strip naked in front of police officers, who often give the direction ...

Vicki Sentas, Senior Lecturer, UNSW Law, UNSW - avatar Vicki Sentas, Senior Lecturer, UNSW Law, UNSW

How to make good arguments at school (and everywhere else)

There are more important things than winning an argument – like making everyone feel valued. www.shutterstock.comFrom as early as Grade 3 teachers start teaching children how to put across thei...

Luke Zaphir, Researcher for the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project; and Online Teacher at Education Queensland's IMPACT Centre, The University of Queensland - avatar Luke Zaphir, Researcher for the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project; and Online Teacher at Education Queensland's IMPACT Centre, The University of Queensland

GM crops: to ban or not to ban? That's not the question

The South Australian government recently announced its intention to lift the long-standing statewide moratorium on genetically modified (GM) crops, following a statutory six-week consultation period. ...

Rachel A. Ankeny, Professor of History and Philosophy, and Deputy Dean Research (Faculty of Arts), University of Adelaide - avatar Rachel A. Ankeny, Professor of History and Philosophy, and Deputy Dean Research (Faculty of Arts), University of Adelaide

Grattan on Friday: Courting 'quiet Australians' from 'bubble central', it's been a remarkable first year for Scott Morrison

Can Scott Morrison maintain the image of separation from the Canberra elite, given he's its most powerful member? AAP/The ConversationEven Scott Morrison, with his abundant self-belief, couldn’t...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Trust Me, I’m An Expert: Why the Hong Kong protesters feel they have nothing to lose

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people again took to the streets in Hong Kong to protest against the government – the 11th straight weekend of demonstrations that began in June over a pro...

Sunanda Creagh, Head of Digital Storytelling - avatar Sunanda Creagh, Head of Digital Storytelling

We need a national renewables approach, or some states – like NSW – will miss out

In the absence of federal policy, states are pursing their own renewable targets. Karsten Würth/UnsplashAustralia’s primary federal renewable energy target – to have 33 terawatts of r...

Scott Hamilton, Strategic Advisory Panel Member, Australian-German Energy Transition Hub, University of Melbourne - avatar Scott Hamilton, Strategic Advisory Panel Member, Australian-German Energy Transition Hub, University of Melbourne

A Hippocratic Oath for data science? We’ll settle for a little more data literacy

Bias in, bias out: many algorithms have inherent design problems. Vintage Tone/Shutterstock I swear by Hypatia, by Lovelace, by Turing, by Fisher (and/or Bayes), and by all the statisticians and data ...

Lewis Mitchell, Senior Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, University of Adelaide - avatar Lewis Mitchell, Senior Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, University of Adelaide

Australia's latest military commitment should spark assessment of how well we use our defence forces

Just when we thought Australia was getting serious about shifting priorities away from the Middle East to its own neighbourhood, the prime minister has announced another Middle East step up. Australia...

John Blaxland, Professor, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University - avatar John Blaxland, Professor, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University

Australia bans video games for things you'd see in movies. But gamers can access them anyway

A screenshot from survival videogame DayZ. Bohemia InteractiveIn the last three months, the Australian Classification Board has “refused classification” for at least four video games &ndas...

Brendan Keogh, ARC DECRA Fellow, Queensland University of Technology - avatar Brendan Keogh, ARC DECRA Fellow, Queensland University of Technology

Victorian changes to gender on birth certificate will not increase sexual violence. Here's why

Under the proposed changes, TGD people in Victoria can change the gender on their birth certificate without having to undergo medical intervention. ShutterstockThe Victorian government is considering ...

Bianca Fileborn, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Melbourne - avatar Bianca Fileborn, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Melbourne

What kind of state values a freeway's heritage above the heritage of our oldest living culture?

The government intends to destroy Djab Wurrung sacred trees and sites to upgrade the Western Highway at the same time as it seeks heritage status for the Eastern Freeway. Allies Decolonising/gofundmeT...

Libby Porter, Professor of Urban Planning, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University - avatar Libby Porter, Professor of Urban Planning, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

Why full-fat milk is now OK if you're healthy, but reduced-fat dairy is still best if you're not

The Heart Foundation now backs full-fat milk if you're healthy. But it still recommends reduced-fat milk if you have high blood pressure or heart disease. from www.shutterstock.comThe Heart Foundation...

Clare Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle - avatar Clare Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle

Tim Fischer – a man of courage and loyalty – dies from cancer

Tim Fischer aboard a one-off passenger train last month to raise money for the Albury Wodonga Cancer Centre trust fund. Sally Evans/ Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre Trust FundFormer deputy prime...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

The Strait of Hormuz is the most important oil choke point in the world. Use our interactive map to explore it

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-NDAfter months of increasing tension between Iran and the US, on Tuesday the Morrison government committed a warship, surveillance aircraft and about 200 troops t...

Wes Mountain, Multimedia Editor - avatar Wes Mountain, Multimedia Editor

Greenland isn't Denmark's to sell: some essential reading for Trump on colonialism

The coast of Greenland is not for sale. ShutterstockDonald Trump is not the first US President to make an offer of buying Greenland from Denmark – but he might be the last. Home of some 56,00...

Felicity Jensz, Research associate professor, University of Münster - avatar Felicity Jensz, Research associate professor, University of Münster

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

A Guide for Tenants

The cost of purchasing a home has been increasing, and the size of deposits needed, make buying pr...

Top ways for men to look after their skin

According to Jack Simmons, from Aboutmen, more and more men are taking pride in their appearance a...

Top 10 Caravan Storage Tips & Tricks

Taking caravan trips is a popular Aussie pastime, but if you have spent more than a few days in ...

5 Meaningful Gifts Your Mother Would Simply Love

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to amaze the person who loves you the most with a thoughtful gift? Why ...