Australia must invest in early learning reform to create a prosperous nation in 2062, Minderoo Foundation reveals

The release of the Australian Government’s latest Intergenerational Report for Australia shows the urgent need for reform of the early learning system for the benefit of children, families and the economy, according to Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five campaign.

The report forecasts what the next four decades will look like in Australia, predicting the population will grow to 40.5 million by 2062-63, with comparatively fewer children and a growth in the care economy, including early childhood education and care (ECEC).

What were Minderoo’s thoughts on the new report?

Minderoo Foundation’s Jay Weatherill said the Intergenerational Report confirmed the need to equip the young Aussies and future generations for the challenges and opportunities ahead, including the ageing population, climate change and the rapid pace of technological change.

“While it’s hard to predict exactly what Australia in 2063 will look like, we know that communities who invest in making early learning more accessible, more affordable and higher quality will give children the best chance of making the most of their future. With fewer workers to support retirees and dependent children, we need to plan and invest now for this new reality and reforming the early learning system is a key solution,” Mr Weatherill said.

Jay Weatherill, Director of Public Affairs at Minderoo Foundation
Jay Weatherill, Director of Public Affairs at Minderoo Foundation

“Early childhood is a time of rapid development of a child’s brain, their mental and emotional development and learning. Early childhood education is the cornerstone for ensuring Australia increases prosperity and improves its standard of living by 2063. No kid should be left behind, every child should be supported by the early learning system to achieve the best they can.”

What must the govt do to achieve its ambitious target?

This year’s NAPLAN results also highlight that a significant proportion of students across Australia are currently facing challenges when it comes to literacy and numeracy skills.

“These challenges are even more pressing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from remote parts, particularly from rural and remote Northern Territory,” Mr Weatherill said.

“We know that access to high-quality early learning can help ensure that children start school ready to learn with skills necessary to thrive. Without that early learning, they may already be at a significant disadvantage by the time they reach NAPLAN testing age and it is hard for them to catch up. Universal, affordable and high-quality early childhood education and care would help boost educational outcomes and take significant steps towards closing the gap.”

“The shift to an ageing population over coming decades means improving the skills of workers, supporting the workforce participation of parents of children and growing the early educator workforce should be top of the agenda for political leaders. Universally accessible, high quality early learning is critical national infrastructure and a legacy from our generation to the next, and from our political leaders to the leaders and citizens of tomorrow,” he added.