Keynotes & Plenaries
Fulfilling the promise of universal preschool at scale
Steve Barnett (Rutgers University)
Wednesday, 27th September, 6:00pm
Half a century of research finds that quality preschool education can be an effective way to enhance the lives of children, particularly those in disadvantaged families. This gives rise to the hope that publicly supported universal pre-k can meaningfully improve early learning and development contributing to better lives for all, while decreasing educational, economic, and social inequality. The benefits to society at large also include gains in everything from economic productivity to reductions in crime and improvements in adults’ health. However, there have been few well-documented examples of large-scale successes along with some apparent failures of public programs to produce the promised benefits. Revisiting the research and examining both the successes and failures of contemporary public programs, provides insights into what is required to produce success at scale. Four principles emerge. First, large-scale public programs must be designed to have key features associated with effectiveness in the research. Second, programs must be implemented as designed. Many public programs fail to invest sufficiently in the necessary quality, intensity, and fidelity to reproduce the experiences or outcomes of successful models. Third, larger educational and social systems must be responsive to changes produced by quality preschool. Finally, more information is required on the details of what works best to more fully inform practice. New Jersey’s court-ordered “Abbott” preschool system is described and analyzed in detail as an example of the implementation of these principles.
Building better ECEC policies and stronger professional ownership for tomorrow’s world
Andreas Schleicher (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris)
Thursday, 28th September, 8:45am
Quality Construed: The effectiveness of Australia’s Early Childhood Education and Care provision assessed, observed and interrogated
Karen Thorpe (University of Queensland)
Thursday, 28th September, 2:15pm
The claim that “early childhood education and care (ECEC) is important for children’s development” has become an unquestioned platitude. While there is compelling evidence showing that experiences in the ECEC can make a difference to children’s ongoing learning and life achievements, this is not guaranteed. Not all ECEC experiences are positive or effective for children’s learning. Positive experiences are highly dependent on the training and well-being of educators and yet the workforce is increasing under pressure to “perform “quality while being among the lowest paid employees in society. In this presentation Australian ECEC is placed under the lens drawing on three major studies and approaches to understanding effective educational experiences in Australian ECEC:
- Assessed quality: Data from E4Kids in which the quality of ECEC was assessed using standard observations (CLASS) in Victorian and Queensland classrooms are presented and discussed.
- Observed quality: A detailed study of sleep practices in ECEC rooms suggests the potential of barometer events that can index effective early education.
- Interrogated quality: The wellbeing of the ECEC workforce present a challenge to the sustainability of delivering effective ECEC, especially in communities and rooms where there are greater family complexities and behavioural challenges. Drawing on a national study of the Australian ECEC workforce the sustainability of effective provision of ECEC in Australia is raised.
Quality indicators for inclusive and effective early childhood education and care: the European CARE-project
Paul Leseman (Utrecht University)
Friday, 29th September, 9:00am
The CARE-project was commissioned by the European Commission to establish a culture-sensitive European framework of quality and wellbeing indicators at the child, classroom, center and state level, to be used by educators, service providers and governments to assure quality and impact of early childhood education and care. The collaborative effort of research teams from 11 countries included several reviews and empirical studies to provide the evidential basis of the framework. This presentation will discuss the framework and highlight some of the studies underlying it, in particular the survey among parents and educators, the secondary analysis of five large scale longitudinal datasets on quality and outcomes, and the observational in-depth study of good practices across Europe. The findings indicate, first of all, a largely shared understanding of the concepts of quality and wellbeing across Europe, with significant additions to existing frameworks to reflect European culture and tradition. The findings also indicate the need to adapt early childhood curricula to the demands of the 21st century. The findings further indicate that structural conditions act as ensembles to produce process quality, with the heavy weight of structural quality lying at the center or service level, including in particular the implementation of continuous professional development and actions to create an inclusive, collaborative and team-learning climate within the center. Detailed observations of good practices across Europe and cross-national focus group discussions with educators confirmed the shared understanding of quality and wellbeing, but also revealed challenges to meet new curriculum demands in a developmentally appropriate way.
The Early Years Learning Framework – Ten years on
Jennifer Sumsion (Charles Sturt University)
Friday, 29th September, 2:15pm
In 2007, work began on the development of Belonging, being and becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Ten years on, it is timely to look back on the intent of the EYLF, and to reflect on what has been achieved, what ‘has worked’, what hasn’t, and where to now. As I was integrally involved in the development of the EYLF, I begin with some personal reflections about aspirations for the EYLF and some of the strategies used in the sometimes-fraught efforts to ensure that it became a reality. I also discuss my views about the strengths of the EYLF, why it has been widely embraced by early childhood educators, and why it has attracted considerable international interest. As the EYLF has not been formally evaluated, it is difficult to be definitive about what it has achieved and where it has fallen short. Consequently, I turn to a range of systematic and anecdotal data from diverse sources that collectively provide some insights into what seems to ‘have worked’ and what ‘hasn’t worked’. I also share my thoughts about whether, given the approaching 10-year anniversary of its implementation, a revision of the EYLF might be desirable.