It is encouraging to see the state government has listened to the views of its constituents, consulted and made an appropriate decision on the contentious issue of school starting age.
On Monday night, Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff took to social media to tell parents, childcare workers, teachers and wider community that his government would not be lowering the school starting age in Tasmania. It was an announcement for the people, while cynics could suggest that it was simply a strategic ploy for the Liberals to garner more voter support ahead of the upcoming state election.
Education is vitally important for the future prosperity of this state.
At the higher end of education, we have seen the University of Tasmania move to transform its Launceston campus by moving it to Inveresk, while offering associate degrees tailored to meet market demand. We have watched the state government extended education in remote areas to include grades 11 and 12 at high schools, making sure that teenagers and families are not disadvantaged by where they live.
And now young children have come under the spotlight to ensure that no child misses out regardless of their socio-economic background. The state government, in partnership with the early childhood education and care sector, will provide an extra year of play-based preschool for vulnerable or disadvantaged children, which will be offered when a child turns three. This service will start in 2020 and access will be free.
According to researchers at the University of Cambridge, “there are several strands of evidence which all point towards the importance of play in young children’s development, and the value of an extended period of playful learning before the start of formal schooling”. The Global Partnership of Education suggests that children who have access to quality, early childhood programs do better in primary school and will have better education outcomes later on in life.
Three is too young for a child to enter formal education. Continuing to start school at the age of five gives a child more time to mature and follow basic instruction. Education is powerful – it is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that every child should have the right to a quality education so they can have more opportunities in life. The government should be congratulated for not being afraid to back down on a decision which, if implemented, could have adversely affected many lives.