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Early Childhood Goals for Pacific Education

28 June 2000

Early Childhood Goals for Pacific Education Increasing the number of Pacific children participating in early childhood education and raising the quality of the early childhood education they access were key education goals, the Secretary for Education Howard Fancy said today.

"The Ministry of Education is taking a hard look at the barriers that exist to this lack of participation and at how these can be overcome," Howard Fancy said in a keynote speech to conference in Wellington on Strengthening Pacific Early Childhood Education.

While the past nine years had seen enrolments of Pacific children in early childhood services rise by 78%, their proportion was low compared with the rest of the population. Över 20% fewer three and four year old Pacific children, for example, attended an early childhood centre.

Besides moving to increase the demand, there needed to be an adequate supply of early childhood places to meet that demand. The increase in the Budget of $7.2 million over the next four years to the Pacific pool of the discretionary grants scheme would create around 1,800 more places in licensed Pacific early childhood care and education centres.

"We have also initiated an exercise in Auckland to build up our understanding as to how issues like work arrangements, costs and access to transport may be acting as barriers to participation."

Howard Fancy stressed that the Ministry's focus on the quality of early childhood education was critical. It was taking steps to build from the early childhood curriculum Te Whaariki to provide professional guidance and support to early childhood educators. The Ministry was also addressing the importance of qualified early childhood educators by moving to a situation where the person responsible for an early childhood centre would need to hold a Diploma of Teaching (ECE). A campaign to increase the number of Pacific early childhood educators would also be undertaken. The Pacific population in New Zealand was young and diverse, said Howard Fancy. It had a median age of around 20 years compared with 32 years for the population as a whole, and nearly two out of every three of its members were New Zealand born.

"Educational success requires getting many things right. It requires good schools, good early childhood centres and good teachers. It needs parents and communities valuing and supporting the education of their children. It requires strong and effective partnerships between educators, parents and communities. It also requires Government agencies, educators and communities to work together effectively.

"It needs teaching practices and education policies that understand Pacific students and builds from this, their culture and their ways of doing things, helping them to gain the skills, knowledge and attitudes they need to succeed in a fast moving and knowledge-based world.

"It is also important that students have confidence in themselves, their identity and their culture and that our education system supports and encourages this.

"Education success is much more likely when education policies and practices successfully integrate the acquisition of skills and knowledge with elements of culture and identity," Howard Fancy said.


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