Without going into all the details, a report published in the Sunday Territorian today (15/12/19) confirms that many childcare centres purporting to operate early learning programs, are doing a little in the way of educating children. The report suggests that at least 25% of those centres are no more or no less than places operating for babysitting purposes.

This calls to my mind situation that existed many years ago when efforts were being made to link schools preschools with childcare centres. At that stage commonsense prevailed and a clear delineation between preschools and the centres remained in place. It was recognised preschools had programs supported by teachers, while centres were staffed by childcare workers.

While both groups of staff undertook qualifications for positions, preschool staff are fully qualified teachers who have completed degrees, with childcare centres offering support for children by lesser qualified certificated staff members.

Alas, with the passing of time the two institutions have become merged to a point of where black and white (in terms of differentiation of service) have merged into the penumbric “shades of grey” area.

Adding to the issue and confusing the subject have been indications of qualified teachers working in childcare centres. It has become fashionable to call childcare workers early childhood educators and from the term “educator ” there is just a small step to the notion of “qualified teacher”.

Juxtapositionally, parents who want to enrol children into childcare centres in order to receive formal education, are in a position where they discount the value of free play for children growing up in a pre-educational context.

In this modern day and age there is a necessity for childcare, necessary in order to enable parents to return to work.

Personally I feel somewhat sad about this necessity because in the very early years the best learning and development takes place when children are at home with their parents. The busy lives parents lead increasingly denies this opportunity.

Such is life! However, childcare centres and schools (including preschools) should have a separation – as was once the case. The merging that has occurred confuses the situation of what is learnt where, and how significant that learning happens to be.

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