Jane Caro on the impact of early childhood education on disadvantage

Kinderling News & Features

Author and media commentator Jane Caro is best known for her advocacy of public education, so she’s passionate about quality learning from a young age. 

She says giving children a strong educational start in life means they can build on that foundation in the future, which she believes is integral to changing outcomes for all children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Exposure to early childhood education, from socialising to having more access to books and the development of new skills, can have a big impact on the future of children and of the whole community. 

Listen to Jane’s interview on Kinderling Conversation: 

Setting up routine 

Part of the foundational learning that equips children for school includes learning social skills, taking instructions from adult carers (who aren’t their parents) and being in an established daily routine. 

“It’s setting them up for the fact that you get ready in the morning, get in the car by a certain time, you get to where you’re going and say goodbye to mum, and then it’s your time and your day. Preschools tend to follow a structured schedule and in terms of preparing for school that’s excellent,” she says. 

Learning to socialise 

Jane has seen how early childhood education works through her own experience. She saw her kids build on their social skills, and it also introduced her as a parent to new people and a potential support group. 

“I was really aware of them making friendships more than anything,” she said. “I met other parents through the fact my children had made friends –  they were broadening the world for themselves, but also broadening the world for the family,” she explained. 

Jane said her own children attended pre-school and believes her grandson would be missing out if he didn’t attend early childhood education. 

She says it’s an opportunity for children to expand their own world and meet people outside of the family, both carers and other kids, on a regular basis. 

Skill development and stability

Jane reiterated that although socio economic background plays a part in long term outcomes for a child, including their success at school, there are a broad range of benefits for all children through attending early education. 

“That’s where early learning can have a huge impact,” Jane said. 

“They learn how to share toys, how not to dominate constantly, how to negotiate,” she said. “These are wonderfully important lessons and maturation that happens only amongst other kids, their peers.”  

Access to books and listening to books being read is an integral part of learning, and the early education environment gives access to those opportunities. 

However, early learning educators don’t focus just on the academic aspects of learning but also on simply how to fit in and get along with one another. 

 “It teaches them about measurement, fine motor skills, how to share, and they can learn about how things mix together and how to make food,” Jane said. 

Overcoming cost and social disadvantage

Cost can be a big consideration for families who want to use quality early childhood education, particularly for disadvantaged families. 

The NSW Government is attempting to turn this around with a funding boost of $115 million dollars into the early childhood education sector. 

“There’s copious amounts of research to show, that kids from disadvantaged families, benefit exponentially from exposure to preschool from the age of three, yet often they’re the ones most likely to miss out,” Jane explains. 

“If we want to have societies where we have very low rates of crime, lower rates of mental illness, lower rates of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, we need to start working with little kids, to help overcome the things that we know flow out of disadvantage and poverty,” Jane says.