The Press editorial:
New Zealand’s early childhood education system came under friendly fire this week as a survey found up to a quarter of teachers in the sector would not enrol their own children in it.
One hundred and fifty three teachers out of 601 surveyed said they would not be happy for their child to attend the centre where they worked. Soundbites included analogies to “factory farming” and “crowd management”.
The survey provides no breakdown of reasons, just some inflammatory soundbites. We don’t know how many said they would not send their children to ECE because they would prefer to look after them themselves.
Now, the quality versus quantity debate appears to be at an impasse. New Zealand’s 1:5 teacher-child ratio is one of the best in the world, although Australia and many European countries have 1:4. At that level, small differences matter.
One survey respondent put it bluntly: “When one goes to change nappies, the other teacher is left with nine babies. One day I was feeding a baby and the other teacher was changing a nappy. Another child started crying while two babies were hitting each other with toys. How can you handle this kind of situation?”
With more teachers. Three adults across 12 children completely changes that dynamic. It’s hard to argue that two extra percentage points on a participation rate already comfortably in the 90s would trump that.
The editorial ignores the cost of increasing the number of teachers by 25% – it would be over $250 million a year. And the reality is parents are actually far happier with ECE services than in the past.
Here’s the satisfaction scores from the SSC Kiwis Count survey on early childhood education:
- 2007: 73%
- 2009: 76%
- 2012: 77%
- 2013: 79%
- 2014: 81%
It is no surprise a survey done by a group whose members include ECE centres who would benefit from more money, finds a quote or two to get headlines. But the SSC survey of actual parents shows satisfaction is high and steadily increasing.