Early Childhood Education around the World
Kids Around the World
A friend recently relayed her frustration in trying to find an affordable preschool for her three-year-old son. She and her husband both must work to support their growing family, and although she’d like to be a stay-at-home-mom, necessity dictates otherwise.
This is the case for many American families. Finding affordable, quality early childhood education is growing increasingly difficult. More and more, both parents are forced to work—making early education a care-related issue as well.
In the industrialized world, free or partially-funded early childhood education programs are more often the rule and not the exception. So where exactly does the United States stand on early childhood education and care? Unfortunately, our country is ranked rather low in recent reports by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
In Australia, early childhood education covers the years from kindergarten (beginning at age four) to year three (approximately age seven). The first two years of schooling are not compulsory or state-funded. However, some fees are subsidized by a Child Care Benefit (CCB), which is available if a child attends a government-approved program. Low-income families can receive a higher percentage of CCB, which in some cases may completely cover costs.
There is no coherent Australian national policy on preschool education to ensure that all Australian children are able to exercise their right to a free, public, high quality preschool education. In general it would appear that about 90 percent of Australian children access a preschool education. There is no clear national data, since there are inconsistencies of structure and nomenclature, and inconsistent and incomplete figures at a national level. The reality is that if the definition of preschool education incorporates a requirement for qualified teachers and education workers, the proportion missing out is likely to be much higher than that.
Education is very important in Canada. In fact, Canada spends more per capita on its education system than most industrialized countries. However, until recently the country did not offer funding or subsidies for early childhood education programs and parents were struggling—as in the US and Australia—to find the funds to pay for early childhood education and care.
On March 13, 2003, the Federal, Provincial, Territorial Ministers Responsible for Social Services decided to build on the Early Childhood Development Agreement (ECDA) by agreeing to supplement funding of ECDA programs. The Government of Canada is providing funds totaling $800 million (Canadian) over five years to support provincial and territorial government investments in regulated programs for children under six. This is the closest that governments in Canada have come to agreeing on a national early child education and care program.
As noted by Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources, this agreement is working to “improve access to affordable, quality, provincially, and territorially regulated child care and early learning right across the country.”
The children of China attend kindergarten from the age of three to five. Government regulations from 1981 dictate three separate learning levels: juniors (three-year-olds), middle (four-year-olds), and seniors (five-year-olds). The country has also set rules and regulations outlining the qualifications of kindergarten teachers.
A variety of sources provide funding for Chinese kindergarten programs—some are government-funded or government-licensed private and neighborhood programs, and others are the responsibility of work units (government-operated communities where families both work and live together—such as in a college or factory setting).
These programs tend to center on a group of children, rather than one-on-one teacher-child interaction. “Both its socialist ideals and Confucian traditions may help explain the persistence of the whole group, teacher-directed emphasis, rather than the use of individual choices and creative self-expression,” writes JoAn Vaughan, a professor at Stephens College.
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