What’s really going on in ECE?


Last night, Campbell Live did a great job of repeating the nonsense thrown around by the left regarding National’s changes to Early Childhood Education policy.

But they ignored the real problem: Labour’s idiotic policy.

Take early childhood education. National inherited a loopy policy from Labour. That Government decided no one was fit to educate the under-5s unless they had a degree in early childhood education, thus writing off 99 per cent of all parents.

What a smack in the face for all of us who’ve read What-a-Mess every night, spent hours teaching littlies to tie shoelaces, played Incy-Wincy-Spider, and repeatedly sung Never Smile at a Crocodile to deter car-sickness.

But it’s worse than that. Fully qualified and experienced teachers were being threatened with losing their jobs under Labour – just because they didn’t have the right bit of paper. They might have, for example,  had a primary teaching qualification and worked 20 years in early childhood, but the policy under Labour was such that they were regarded as less desirable employees than a freshly graduated teacher with zero experience.

Under Labour, the more fully-trained staff a centre hired, the more government funding it attracted, so of course we had a budget blowout. Over five years, funding went from $428 million to $1.3 billion and no one knew if that was an investment in quality pre-school education or just taxpayer funded baby-sitting.

An Unqualified Teacher

…Centres don’t have to be fully staffed by teachers clutching their degrees. Just because someone waves the required certificate doesn’t automatically make them an expert on educating the under-5s. If that were so, we’d mandate for all parents to pass the same test before they gave birth.

Quite. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that even if the “unqualified” teachers are in fact “unqualified” they can work under the supervision of one who is.

The real problem here is that Labour made a ridiculous policy which increased costs for no demonstrable gain. Where’s the proof that 100% of teachers with degrees is better than 80%? Some centers however have decided that they won’t cut their cloth to fit their new budgets and want to keep on all their “qualified” teachers, in spite of their being a shortage at other centers.

Now, think about this carefully. When all qualified teachers are retained in spite of government policy, people are being forced out of work, as they can’t afford the extra fees that must be charged. Those forced out are of course those on the edge of their budgets (i.e. the poor). But those teachers who are kept on are desperately needed in other areas – and again, who miss out? Areas like South Auckland, the very areas where this is actually going to make the difference. (I know personally of Manukau centers that were forced to close  point due to lack of staff.)

In other words, we’re getting the worst of both worlds. Some ECE centers are charging fees for essentially ideological reasons, while others can’t get the qualified staff they need. So while the left blame National, it’s actually the centers themselves who should be answering the hard questions.

I accept that ECE is regarded as valuable – I personally don’t agree. But what I don’t accept is that we should throw billions at a sector to increase inequalities that will produce no real gain in education outcomes of the “haves” – and make the situation of the “have nots” worse.

Hat Tip Keeping Stock

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