Failing to Consider Parents' Quality Perspectives
29 July 2004
Government Early Childhood Education Policy Failing to Consider Parents' Perspectives on Quality
Questions need to be asked about why Education Minister Trevor Mallard and policy-advising officials are failing to support parents to make informed choices about their child's early education, says education researcher Dr. Sarah Farquhar.
"The government is doing many good things including, trying to make early childhood education more affordable and available to families, earmarking new funding to meet the cost of getting more qualified teachers and improving teacher:child ratios, and professional development and curriculum materials".
"But what's missing is a concern for giving all parents access to information on the diversity of options and choices, and how to assess what works best for their child and family".
Mr Mallard notes "research shows intensive and regular participation in quality early childhood education delivers the strongest benefits for children". "But stronger than what?" questions Dr. Farquhar.
Dr. Farquhar believes for babies and young children parenting and parental involvement in children's learning is vitally important and should be given greater recognition. A review of the best evidence shows that some of the strongest impacts on children's outcomes result from partnerships between teachers and parents that align practices in the two settings and enable parents to actively support their child's learning.
When family and home background characteristics are taken into account the international research shows that early childhood education has advantages particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. However benefits of early childhood education for the child can be cancelled out if the early childhood service provides an approximate equivalence or lower quality than the home.
Dr. Farquhar argues that resources and support should be available to all parents to empower them to ask questions and monitor how well their service continues to meet their child's needs and their needs as parents, and is responsive to family values.
A video resource for parents called "Choices for Children: Childcare and Education" has been made by Dr. Farquhar. She says it is an attempt to reach parents to let them know that what makes quality in an early childhood centre is a lot wider than simply what the government says and requires of services.
"It tells parents that they can and should have a voice in saying what suits them, their child and family best. And at the same time policy makers and officials might learn a thing or two from the video about the importance of children's happiness and melding family values and culture with early childhood options".
The video features 14 early childhood services, including nanny and home-based services, kindergarten, Te Kohanga Reo, Pacific Island language centres, childcare, playcentre, and Montessori. Information and an order form is available at http://www.childforum.com Or write to Dr. Farquhar at PO Box 58-078, Porirua, Wellington.