This paper is based on a presentation at a Centre for Community Child Health seminar devoted to a consideration of the Productivity Commission’s Draft Report on Child Care and Early Childhood Learning. The aim of the paper was to present a succinct summary of relevant evidence to inform discussions. Rather than reviewing the evidence regarding existing forms of service, the presentation focused more broadly on what we know about child development – how children learn and what children need. The paper is not so much about challenging existing models of early childhood education and care in Australia as challenging our understanding of the nature and significance of the early years.
NEW RESEARCH EVIDENCE AND WHAT IT TELLS US
Over the past few decades, there has been a growing acceptance among scholars, professionals and policy makers of the importance of the early years. However, as we learn more about the way in which experiences in the early years shape health, development and wellbeing, and the extent of these influences over the life-course, the true importance of these years becomes more and more apparent.
There are nine sources of evidence to be considered.
- Evidence about the nature and significance of prenatal development and experiences, and their effects over the life course
- Evidence about the nature and significance of postnatal learning and development, and the impact of proximal environments
- Evidence regarding the impact of early childhood experiences on long term development, health and wellbeing
- Evidence regarding neurological development and plasticity
- Evidence regarding the neurobiology of interpersonal relationships
- Evidence regarding ‘social climate change’ and its effects
- Evidence from economic analyses of child development and the benefits of investments in the early years
- Evidence regarding social inequalities and their effects
- Evidence from repeated measurement of key indicators of child development and functioning.•
Presentation at Centre for Community Child Health seminar Investing in Early Childhood—the future of early childhood education and care in Australia
The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, 25 July 2014