Providing universal access to preschool programs for all three-year-old children is an achievable and desirable policy goal for Australia.
With two thirds of three-year-olds accessing early education and care (ECEC) services, Australia already has the foundations of a universal preschool program. The challenge is to:
- make sure all three-year-olds receive the 'dose' of high quality early learning through a dedicated preschool program that will have a sustained impact on their development
- ensure the children currently missing out due to financial and non-financial barriers have the opportunity to participate.
The Mitchell Institute recommends that as an immediate and low-cost first step, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agree to commission a scoping study into three-year preschool programs.
COAG should commission a scoping study into universal three-year-old preschool programs for Australia. The study should be completed by the end of 2017 and should identify:
- delivery gaps and opportunities
- core process and structural quality elements
- strategies to address barriers to access for priority cohorts
- jurisdiction-specific implementation options
- improvements in data collection needed to track impact.