The past decade has seen an unprecedented policy focus in Australia upon services for children during the early years. This has occurred in response to a growing body of research highlighting the importance of the early years. Progress in regards to early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in the policy arena is often overshadowed by simplistic views and debates in the broader public arena regarding young children. For example, the misconception that child care is ‘bad’ for young children disrupts attempts to move public debate towards how we can build a high quality ECEC service system.
In this Policy Brief, we explore four key issues pertaining to the future of early childhood education and care in Australia: the importance of early childhood, quality early childhood education and care, service integration, and the inclusion of children with disability and developmental delays. Although significant improvements have been made recently in Australia in regards to ECEC, it is important that as a nation we carefully consider decisions regarding the ECEC service system and do not lose sight of the profound role that the service system plays in building the foundation for Australia’s future prosperity.