Monday, June 18, 2012

The Challenges That Lay Ahead

Hi, I'm Greg & I am an Early Childhood Teacher from Australia. I write a blog called Males in Early Childhood which you can find by clicking here.

We are in the midst of an overhaul of the early childhood education and care sector in Australia. It includes better educator:child ratios, higher qualification requirements for caregivers and a new national Early Childhood Education Framework that guides practice and informs curriculum. These changes have been ongoing for the past two years or so and will continue for another few years.

While all this is great for the profession and the sector in general, there has been a negative result of all these measures and other factors. Fees are increasing far beyond the rate of GDP and therefore many families are struggling to afford quality formal care for their children.

Now this cannot be attributed solely to the changes being implemented, but did anyone seriously think you could increase the number of staff required, increase the qualifications required and therefore the wages, increase the number of university trained teachers (the highest paid educators in the sector) and not affect the price centres need to charge families in order to cover these costs.

The sad thing is that Early Childhood Education and Care is one of the lowest paid sectors in Australia and in many other countries. There is a current campaign to get more pay for all childcare workers. yes we deserve more money for one of the most important jobs in society. But this will impact of care costs even further, making it unaffordable for even more families.

The answer our Prime Minister has to this is to provide more monetary support for families and there is also talk of capping fee increases. While seeming effective on the surface these are floored and short-term solutions. Capping fee increases will make many services unviable and pressure them to close their doors, which will provide an even greater burden on a struggling industry. Likewise monetary assistance will only work while fees remain the same. As soon as they increase some more this extra money will be swallowed up.

Personally, I don't want to see the private sector come to the rescue as it was private enterprise trying to make a profit out of childcare that cause many problems in this country not so long ago. Having said that, one possibility could be for workplaces to partially meet the cost of parents returning to work by assisting in childcare fees. This presents problems in itself as not all workplaces would be able to meet such costs. It is however, one idea to get the ball rolling.

I don't know the answers and won't pretend to. The purpose of this post is to spark debate and engage parents and colleagues the world over into putting ideas forward that may help meet all the challenges we face. I have provided one idea, however unlikely it might be. The challenge now is to see how many feasible ideas we can actually come up with. Who knows, we may even be able to forward these ideas to Governments around the world.

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